May 9 2022
TOKYO – A small Japanese opposition party appears to be going all out for its survival beyond a key election this summer, raising the possibility that it could become a dynamo for change in the country’s political landscape.
The Democratic Party for the People’s recent cozying up to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party has fueled speculation among political circles that it wants to join the ruling coalition, which also involves junior partner Komeito.
For the LDP, the small opposition party may not be a strange political bedfellow, and their closer relations in the run-up to the House of Councillors election in July would help the ruling party prevent an unwanted scenario — opposition parties joining forces to shake the LDP’s hold on power.
That speculation has already created hiccups with other opposition parties, especially the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which shares the same support base — Rengo — the nation’s largest umbrella group for labor unions.
And most recently, it has hit the Japan Innovation Party, the opposition party that scrapped an agreement with the Democratic Party for the People to seek a change of government together.
For its part, the Democratic Party for the People has kept mum about the possibility of joining the governing coalition.
“What is at stake is our survival,” party leader Yuichiro Tamaki told reporters recently. “We are not in a qualified position to talk about (what would happen) beyond the election.”
Still, actions speak louder than words, political observers say.
In a rare move for an opposition party, Tamaki’s party voted for a government budget for fiscal 2022 in parliament. He said he had secured an assurance from Kishida that the party’s preference for gasoline tax cuts to fight rising fuel prices would be considered, he said.
The LDP-Komeito coalition has launched consultations with the small opposition party to discuss possible gasoline tax cuts and recently kicked off a debate on bolstering support for young people who care for family members due to illness, disability or other difficult conditions.