Opposition Set to Find Common Ground in Making Unified Front

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seiji Osaka, member of the House of Representatives, of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, center, gives a street speech along with Japanese Communist Party officials, in Sapporo, on Jan. 16.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party will begin full-fledged negotiations early this week in efforts to unify their candidates in by-elections and a reelection slated for April 25 in three constituencies for the House of Representatives and House of Councillors. Via mutual collaboration aimed at winning elections, the two parties hope to gain momentum in the next lower house election, which will be held by autumn. However, due to conflicting party interests, the possibility remains that the talks will run into rough patches.

In a lower house by-election in Hokkaido Constituency No. 2, the former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa resigned as lower house member amid a bribe-taking scandal that resulted in him being indicted without arrest. He has left the Liberal Democratic Party but the ruling parties gave up backing a candidate and will lose the seat as a result.

However, the opposition parties have yet to begin negotiations for a unification of candidates, as former lower house member Kenko Matsuki of the CDPJ might be competing with a new JCP candidate.

The CDPJ has a solid footing in Hokkaido, with 12 of the total 26 seats in the Diet, and it will go into the by-election with an attitude that it cannot afford to lose.

The JCP hopes to field candidates in several constituencies in Hokkaido in the next lower house election in order to gain as many proportional representation votes as possible. The JCP is not positioning itself to make easy concessions. In the 2017 general election, the JCP put up a candidate in Hokkaido Constituency No. 2.

A reelection in the Hiroshima constituency in the upper house also has challenges regarding opposition party unification. Following the nullification of Anri Kawai’s election, who was found guilty in a large-scale vote-buying case and later left the LDP, the LDP has faced backlash in the prefecture.

CDPJ Secretary General Tetsuro Fukuyama said “It’s impossible for the No. 1 opposition party not to field [a candidate].”

The party’s prefectural chapter set up a committee to select a candidate at a meeting of secretaries on Feb. 4. They hope to select a candidate by the end of this month.

The JCP has yet to clarify its stance on the issue, but it fielded candidates in the same constituency in both the 2016 and 2019 upper house elections. The reelection is seen as a promising opportunity for the two parties to expand in the run-up to the next general election. It is believed that both parties are likely to go into the reelection with candidates from their own parties.

At a Feb. 4 press conference, JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii said, “It is important to make concessions and find unity.” There is also a sense of caution within the JCP that if it readily acts in accordance with the CDPJ, the JCP might lose some of its initiative in coordinating candidates for the next House of Representatives election. Some members of the JCP have been trying to restrain the CDPJ, with one JCP executive who said, “For all three [candidates for the three constituencies] to go to the CDPJ is too greedy.”

The two parties are likely to find common ground and work together in the upper house by-election in the Nagano constituency. Following the death of former Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Yuichiro Hata of the CDPJ, the CDPJ is expected to field Hata’s younger brother, Jiro, and the JCP plans on supporting him.