Opposition parties need clear vision through united front to win support

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Yukio Edano, head of Japan’s largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks at a group interview in Tokyo, Japan, October 14, 2021.

The opposition parties have formed a united front as they work toward the House of Representatives election. It is essential for each party to share its basic principles and key policies in order to clearly set out the shape of an administration.

The five opposition parties — the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party for the People, Reiwa Shinsengumi and the Social Democratic Party — have reportedly agreed to field a single candidate in more than 200 of all 289 single-seat constituencies. The JCP has narrowed down its number of candidates in single-seat constituencies to a record low of slightly above 100, and this has accelerated coordination among the opposition parties.

After the Democratic Party of Japan lost the reins of government in 2012, the force of the opposition dispersed and the Liberal Democratic Party won a landslide victory in two lower house elections. It is understandable that based on this lesson the opposition parties’ strategy is to try to create an entity that can fight one-on-one against the ruling bloc.

Cooperating to form a united front is based on policy agreements concluded by the CDPJ and the JCP with others through the mediation of a civic group.

The agreements consist of 20 policies that include “abolishing unconstitutional parts of the security-related laws and the law on the protection of specially designated secrets,” “pursuing a decarbonized society without nuclear power plants” and “explaining issues related to school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.”

The JCP has agreed with the CDPJ to provide cooperation “from outside the cabinet in a limited way” if a change of government is realized as a result of the opposition parties’ cooperation.

When asked how he would respond in the event of taking over the government, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano stressed that he “does not at all imagine” a scenario in which the JCP reviews bills before they are submitted to the Diet. He also said that “the cabinet will decide on diplomacy and security.”

However, the JCP’s platform includes the abolition of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the dissolution of the Self-Defense Forces, and its campaign pledges for the lower house election also call for abolishing the security treaty.

Depending on the number of seats in the chamber following a change of government, the JCP may take control of whether bills can pass the Diet when they are submitted by the cabinet. It cannot be said that the JCP would have little influence only because it would not be part of the cabinet.

Tomoko Yoshino, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which supports the CDPJ, is against the move, saying: “It’s impossible to cooperate with the JCP outside the cabinet. The JCP has been plotting to squeeze its policies into Rengo-backed candidates.”

It is undeniable that the CDPJ has not seriously tackled steady activities to expand its base of support through steps such as strengthening its local organizations. Such structural weakness is probably driving the move to cooperate with the JCP, which has strong organizational power.

The CDPJ is believed to expect about 20,000 votes that typically go to the JCP in each single-seat constituency. However, if CDPJ supporters who have distanced themselves from the JCP also turn against the CDPJ as a result, it may lose a great deal by cooperating with the JCP.

As long as the CDPJ calls for a change of government, it is important for the party to present policies and a vision of a new administration that meet the expectations of a wider range of voters.