Japan’s opposition gets results but divisions arise

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the rest of the opposition camp can feel a certain positive response to their teamwork, having won all three Diet elections held Sunday.

However, there were some moves during the election campaigns that could be regarded as akin to excluding the Japanese Communist Party, leaving some ill-feelings.

“The fact that the opposition parties worked together to unify the candidates was well received,” said CDPJ Secretary General Tetsuro Fukuyama. “We would like to have another round of discussions for the upcoming lower house election.”

In an interview with reporters in Tokyo on Sunday evening, Fukuyama stressed that the unity of the opposition parties led to their victory in the elections in Hiroshima, Hokkaido and Nagano.

In reality, there was a noticeably strained atmosphere among opposition parties.

On Friday, JCP leader Kazuo Shii visited Hiroshima, but the CDPJ refused to allow him to have contact with its candidate, claiming such a meeting will “drive away independent voters.” Similar moves were seen in the other two election campaigns, inviting increasing discontent from JCP supporters.

The CDPJ and the JCP are competing for seats in 67 single-seat constituencies. A CDPJ source said that the party hopes the JCP will give up fielding its own candidates. If the discord between them intensifies, making necessary adjustments will become more difficult.

Another source of concern is that the JCP, as a condition for forming a united front, wants the parties to endorse the idea of a coalition government of opposition parties.

“If we agree to form a government together, we will be able to deepen the substance of our electoral cooperation,” Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the JCP, said Sunday evening.

But Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, said, “If we are to form a government together, we need to agree on basic issues such as the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the emperor system.”

While the DPFP backed the opposition candidates in all three elections, it continued to keep its distance from the Japanese Communist Party. If opposition parties’ electoral preparations do not make headway and clouds of discord hang over them, it could affect the plan to submit a motion for a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet.

It also needs to be noted that the opposition camp was successful in the three elections in part because of favorable conditions.

The upper house by-election for the Nagano constituency was called after Yuichiro Hata, a CDPJ upper house member, died from COVID-19. The prefecture has been a stronghold of his father Tsutomu Hata, a former prime minister. Jiro Hata, Yuichiro Hata’s brother, was able to win by making full use of the election committee organization built by his father.

In the lower house by-election in the Hokkaido No. 2 constituency, there was no strong opponent as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party did not field a candidate.

It remains to be seen whether the election results will boost the approval rating of the CDPJ, which has been stagnant at around 5%.

“We will lose in a general election,” a CDPJ source said, “if we think we have won on our own strength in the latest elections.”