Nippon Ishin Aiming to Become Largest Opposition Party in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nippon Ishin Secretary General Fumitake Fujita speaks at a press conference at the Diet on Wednesday.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) aims to become the largest opposition party after making strong gains across the nation in April’s unified local elections.

In the Diet, Ishin has been cooperating with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party at present. But with an eye on the next House of Representatives election, Ishin is prepared to part ways with the CDPJ in terms of election cooperation and is planning to ratchet up pressure on the ruling parties.

Ishin Secretary General Fumitake Fujita indicated Wednesday that the party intends to field more candidates than the CDPJ in the next lower house election. “We’ll put up more candidates and win more seats than the current largest opposition party,” Fujita said at a press conference.

Ishin fielded 96 candidates and won 41 seats in the 2021 general election. However, the CDPJ’s figures for the same election were twice as high in both categories.

In the recent unified local elections, Ishin fielded candidates in multiple regions and was prepared to tolerate losses. But the party’s results were better than expected, capturing new votes and significantly increasing its seat numbers in the local assemblies. The party is keen to harness this momentum for the next lower house election.

While the CDPJ’s basic policy is to unify the opposition forces and consolidate anti-Liberal Democratic Party sentiment, Ishin is keen to capture the votes of LDP supporters.

“If we get close to the left-leaning party, the conservative vote could flee,” a senior Ishin official said.

Ishin is now poised to adopt a more confrontational stance against the ruling parties: the LDP and Komeito. In the next lower house election, Ishin aims to capture multiple LDP seats, primarily in the Kansai region.

To facilitate cooperation in local Osaka politics, Ishin forged a certain level of ties with Komeito, LDP’s coalition partner. Now, however, Ishin is threatening this cooperative relationship by toying with the possibility of fielding candidates in constituencies held by Komeito. There are six such constituencies in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

Ishin’s greatest concern is an early dissolution of the lower house, which could affect its ability to field candidates. Fujita emphasized that in the event of an early dissolution, Ishin would field candidates in constituencies held by Komeito, no matter how much the latter protested. An Ishin senior official said this was a message to encourage Komeito to persuade the prime minister not to rush dissolution if it wanted to retain Ishin’s cooperation, as before.

DPFP approach

The Democratic Party for the People, another opposition party, is trying to get closer to Ishin with the aim of forging ties for the next lower house election as a non-LDP party with similar conservative-leaning policies.

During Tuesday’s press conference, DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki described Ishin as “the closest party,” while denying any election-related cooperation with the CDPJ.

The DPFP and Ishin have similar positions on constitutional revision and security and energy polices. In the current Diet session, the two parties have collaborated such as, for example, by drafting articles for constitutional revision.

Ishin, however, remains cautious about election-focused collaboration. “Cooperation in the Diet is one thing, but election cooperation is a different kettle of fish,” Fujita said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The idea of the DPFP joining a coalition government with the LDP and Komeito continues to smolder. Some believe that bargaining among the LDP, Ishin and DPFP will become more active in the future.