The heads of Japan’s two largest opposition parties on Monday confirmed their plan to cooperate in joining forces to challenge the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in future elections.
The move by the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the second-largest Japan Innovation Party comes on the heels of the departure from the latter last week of co-founder and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
“We reached an agreement to form a framework after the current Diet session to closely discuss elections and policies,” DPJ President Katsuya Okada told reporters after his meeting with Yorihisa Matsuno, the Japan Innovation Party head.
While the possible merger is aimed at building a group large enough to mount a credible challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s dominant ruling party in the House of Councillors election next summer, whether it can be successfully engineered remains to be seen, given reservations in both opposition parties.
Matsuno has voiced the need to form a group with over 100 members in the House of Representatives through realignment within the opposition camp, drawing fire from Hashimoto and another party co-founder, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, both of whom are on friendly terms with Abe.
The rift between the key party members deepened this month after Secretary General Mito Kakizawa backed a candidate for a mayoral election in northeastern Japan before the party decided who to support.
Hashimoto and Matsui left the party on Thursday. Along with party lawmakers representing constituencies in Osaka, they plan to launch a new party by the end of October and aim to secure over 20 lawmakers as members, according to people close to the matter.
The Japan Innovation Party has 40 lower house members and 11 upper house members, while the DPJ has 72 members in the lower house and 58 members in the upper house.
Matsuno apparently believes that by joining forces with the DPJ, it will still be possible to have nearly 100 lawmakers in the lower house even without those expected to join Hashimoto’s new party.