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Ruling parties wary of election cooperation among opposition

The ruling coalition rapped the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) for their cooperation in the House of Councillors election, during a party leaders' debate at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on June 21, the day before the start of campaigning for the July 10 election.

The DP, JCP, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's Life Party have fielded a jointly backed candidate in each of the 32 constituencies where one seat is up for grabs in the upcoming election. Because the election results in these constituencies will greatly affect the overall outcome of the race, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito are desperate to drive a wedge between collaboration by the opposition.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi slammed DP leader Katsuya Okada over the conflict of opinion between the DP and JCP regarding the latter's proposal to establish a "national coalition government" to repeal the security legislation, saying, "The image of responsible politics after the upper house race is nowhere in sight." The DP rules out the possibility of forming a coalition with the JCP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also provoked Okada by saying, "The fact that the JCP has pulled out its candidates from constituencies (where one seat is up for grabs) means that it would make no sense if a national coalition government wasn't formed someday, though that could be next year."

Okada responded to Yamaguchi by saying, "It would be impossible (to form a national coalition government) as long as our tenets and policy measures are different. I'm not thinking about it for now."

In countering Abe, Okada said, "As prime minister, you'd better not give us a bizarre label. I never said something like 'maybe next year.'"

Hiroyuki Arai, leader of the New Renaissance Party who has close ties with Abe, grilled JCP leader Kazuo Shii, saying, "How come the JCP can join forces with the DP even though the JCP doesn't approve of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)?" In response, Shii said, "What is now being contested is not whether to abolish the SDF, but whether the SDF can be dispatched overseas to fight wars." Shii said his party will accept the SDF for the time being before seeking to eliminate the troops "as a future prospect" and "in stages under public consensus." He stressed his intention to focus on the goal of abolishing the security laws, which remain under heavy fire from voters, rather than the pros and cons of the SDF itself.

The ruling parties are apparently playing up the government framework despite the upcoming race not being the House of Representatives election through which a new government is chosen, as they aim to instill a "communist" image into the DP-JCP election collaboration and provoke a feeling of rejection among voters.

What the ruling bloc fears the most is the possibility of voters without any party affiliation who are critical of the government and security legislation casting their ballots for candidates jointly backed by the opposition camp. Shii called for assembling opposition forces with the sole aim of toppling the Abe administration, saying, "A national coalition government must not become an obstacle in the upper house race although there is no agreement (with the DP)."

SDP leader Tadatomo Yoshida stated, "We have prearranged our basic policies. It is natural for opposition parties to cooperate in an election." He lashed out at Komeito leader Yamaguchi, saying, "Can your party really keep the coalition with the LDP, which has different views on the Constitution from your party's?" Okada also denounced Komeito, saying, "When the party was in the opposition, it suddenly joined hands with the LDP, betraying voters."

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