Will CDPJ maintain ties with JCP in post-Edano era?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yukio Edano, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, wipes his forehead as results for the House of Representatives election trickle in on Sunday.

The losses suffered by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan in Sunday’s House of Representatives election prompted calls from within the party for a change, with CDPJ leader Yukio Edano deciding to stand down to take responsibility.

Whether the party will maintain its cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) will be a major issue in the upcoming CDPJ leadership race, ahead of the House of Councillors election next year.

The leadership election is expected to be held before the end of the year.

“I have tried hard to create a situation in which our party can become a viable option to take the reins of government, but the results were very disappointing,” Edano said Tuesday at a party executive meeting. “I hope that a new leader will be chosen who can stabilize the party and steer it toward the upper house election.”

Shortly before the 2017 lower house election, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and others formed Kibo no To (the Party of Hope), absorbing members of the now-defunct Democratic Party (DP).

DP members who lean to the left like Edano did not join the party and established the CDPJ.

In the 2017 election, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party won by a landslide, while the Party of Hope fell flat. The CDPJ won 55 seats to become the largest opposition party.

Aiming to mobilize opposition forces, the CDPJ last year absorbed members of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP).

However, some DPFP members, including current leader Yuichiro Tamaki, did not join Edano’s party due to differences in nuclear power policies, among other issues.

In Sunday’s election, the CDPJ fielded candidates for more than half the seats in the lower house by working with other opposition parties to consolidate support for a unified candidate in single-seat constituencies.

With the help of a civic group, the CDPJ concluded agreements with the JCP, Reiwa Shinsengumi and the Social Democratic Party on policies such as abolishing parts of security-related legislation and cutting consumption tax.

In the event of a CDPJ victory, the communist party had reached an agreement that would allow them to work with the CDPJ administration in a limited role.

However, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), a major supporter of the CDPJ, was against the Edano-led tactic.

“The votes of our members had nowhere to go,” said Rengo President Tomoko Yoshino.

A CDPJ member said the agreement also led to “moderate conservatives turning their backs on us.”

Next leader

Edano’s resignation does not necessarily open up prospects for the CDPJ.

“The leadership election will split the party in two over whether we stay in line with the JCP or shift gears,” a senior CDPJ member said.

Under the CDPJ’s rules, a leadership election must be held within 60 days after a leader resigns. Members must be nominated by at least 20 Diet members to run in a leadership race.

The CDPJ includes such members as former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, former Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, among others from the administration of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan.

Junior and middle-ranking members who claim the veterans are not strong enough to lead reforms are pushing for the party’s Policy Research Council Chairperson Kenta Izumi, 47, who ran in the last CDPJ leadership race. However, some doubt he is well known enough to be a standard-bearer for the party in the upcoming upper house election, even though Izumi has been elected eight times in Kyoto Constituency No. 3.

Other possible contenders include former Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi, 61, who was elected seven times in Nara Constituency No. 1; Junya Ogawa, 50, former parliamentary vice-minister for internal affairs and communications who was elected six times in Kagawa Constituency No. 1. But it is unclear whether they will get the required number of nominations.