Maehara’s New Party Seen as Move to Join Nippon Ishin

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Seiji Maehara

TOKYO, Dec. 1 (Jiji Press) — Seiji Maehara’s departure from the Democratic Party for the People to form a new political party is seen by many across the political aisle as a move to join Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) in the future.

The prominent lawmaker aims to achieve a change in government through a coalition of lawmakers other than those from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Japanese Communist Party.

“I want to promote non-LDP, non-JCP opposition cooperation that focuses on policy,” Maehara said at a press conference Thursday.

Although Maehara did not mention Nippon Ishin by name during the press conference, the party, based in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, is apparently part of his ambition.

A senior Nippon Ishin official said that the party has been in talks with Maehara. At the press conference, Maehara revealed that he had met with Nippon Ishin leader Nobuyuki Baba on Wednesday to explain in advance his intention to leave the DPFP.

At a separate press conference on Thursday, Baba welcomed Maehara’s decision and said that his party hopes to work with Maehara to spread completely free education nationwide from Osaka and surrounding areas.

Maehara’s discord with DPFP head Yuichiro Tamaki, who has taken a cooperative stance toward the ruling bloc, became definitive when they ran against each other in the DPFP leadership election in September.

At the time, Maehara criticized Tamaki’s stance as leading to their party’s downfall and called for working with Nippon Ishin, with which the DPFP shares policy goals on national security and nuclear power, and some members of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to confront the LDP-led government. However, Maehara lost the leadership race by a wide margin and effectively lost his standing within the party.

On Thursday, the DPFP began talks with the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition on a temporary gasoline tax cut, which came in exchange for the opposition party’s support for the government’s fiscal 2023 supplementary budget.

Tamaki “became even more willing to work with the LDP and Komeito after the leadership race,” Maehara argued.

But the outlook is murky for Maehara’s aim of bringing opposition lawmakers together. If his new party positions itself closely with Nippon Ishin, it will be difficult for the CDP to work with the new party.

“I have not met him (Maehara) at all and have not heard what kind of party he will form,” CDP leader Kenta Izumi told reporters.

A senior official of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, which backs the DPFP and the CDP, said, “We cannot support Maehara’s new party if it is to be swallowed up by Nippon Ishin.”

Meanwhile, Maehara’s departure may allow the DPFP to move closer to the ruling bloc. A senior LDP official said the departure will make it easier for Tamaki to move.

But a senior Komeito official warned against such a move, saying that the party would derail talks on a gasoline tax cut if the coalition structure is changed.