Japan Opposition Parties Seeking Early Lower House Breakup

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japanese opposition parties are increasingly urging Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to dissolve the House of Representatives early for a general election following his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s loss in all three Lower House by-elections held in late April.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether opposition parties will be able to team up in the next general election for the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament. For example, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the leading opposition party, and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) are expected to clash in more than 100 single-seat constituencies.

At a press conference in Sao Paulo on Saturday to sum up his tour of France, Brazil and Paraguay, Kishida reiterated that he is not thinking about dissolving the Lower House anytime soon as he focuses on tackling issues that cannot be pushed back, such as political reform and economic measures.

Political reform in the wake of a high-profile slush fund scandal involving LDP factions will certainly be the biggest topic at the Diet in the latter half of its ongoing regular session starting Tuesday after the end of the nation’s Golden Week holidays.

A senior CDP lawmaker criticized the LDP’s proposals over issues including a revision of the political funds control law as being insufficient and not worth considering.

At a meeting in the city of Osaka, western Japan, on April 29, CDP leader Kenta Izumi indicated the party’s plan to consider submitting a no-confidence motion against the Kishida cabinet, saying that the cabinet “is not worthy of trust.”

Other opposition parties are also on the offensive against the LDP.

“We are prepared to keep fighting the LDP,” Nippon Ishin co-leader Hirofumi Yoshimura said.

“We will press (Kishida) to dissolve the Lower House for a general election to seek voters’ judgment,” Japanese Communist Party executive Akira Koike said.

Democratic Party for the People head Yuichiro Tamaki is taking a similar stance.

The opposition side is apparently aiming to make the most of the public backlash against the LDP over the scandal in which part of revenues from fundraising events held by intraparty factions was turned into slush funds without being booked in political funds reports.

A survey conducted by the CDP in March showed that the party would be able to boost its presence in the next Lower House general election, according to informed sources.

Efforts by opposition parties to collaborate in the next Lower House election have not made progress, however.

The CDP’s Izumi has proposed a scheme in which opposition parties that are on the same page over each issue, such as political reform and education free of tuition fees, team up. But the overture was not received well.

Nippon Ishin, which has set a target of becoming the biggest opposition party through the next general election, will unlikely agree with the CDP to coordinate candidates.

In the run-up to the April 28 Lower House by-elections, Nippon Ishin leader Nobuyuki Baba said, “We will crush the CDP.”

The candidates of the CDP and Nippon Ishin clashed in two of the three by-elections—one in the No. 15 constituency in Tokyo and the other in the No. 3 district in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki—while the LDP failed to put up its candidates in the two races in the face of the strong headwind over the political fund scandal. The remaining election, in the No. 1 constituency in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, was effectively a one-on-one battle between the LDP and the CDP. All three elections were won by the CDP.

The JCP supported the CDP in the three Lower House by-elections. But a senior JCP official said, “We took an exceptional approach (in the by-elections)..”

The JCP is calling on the CDP for a relationship based on the spirit of equality, fairness and mutual respect regarding possible coordination of candidates in more than 70 constituencies where the two parties are expected to compete in the next Lower House general election.

In addition, it remains to be seen if the CDP can obtain election cooperation from the DPFP while both parties draw support from the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, analysts said.