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DP-Party of Hope merger likely dead as upper house caucus vows to carry on

Democratic Party House of Councillors caucus chief Toshio Ogawa speaks to reporters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Democratic Party (DP)'s House of Councillors caucus will not merge into Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's Party of Hope and instead continue as an independent force, the lawmakers decided at an Oct. 24 meeting in the Diet building.

Following the gathering, the DP's upper house caucus chief Toshio Ogawa met with party leader Seiji Maehara and requested a general party meeting of all DP lawmakers in both houses of the Diet. Maehara replied he would call the meeting within the week.

Maehara has said he is reconsidering his pre-election decision to fold the DP into the Party of Hope, and with the merger set to be abandoned at the party general meeting, the DP looks likely to remain on the political scene.

Despite early momentum following the Party of Hope's founding in September, the new political force under Gov. Koike quickly lost steam and finished with a disappointing 50 seats in the lower chamber -- behind the 55 won by the liberal DP splinter group the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP).

A number of lawmakers at the DP upper house caucus meeting zeroed in on Maehara's responsibility for the merger decision. Meanwhile, following his talks with Maehara, Ogawa stated that "there is no longer any need to debate going over to the Party of Hope." Regarding Maehara's intention to resign the party leadership, Ogawa added, "I got the feeling that he would step down soon."

Hirokazu Shiba, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, later told reporters, "We in the upper house arranged to respond as one," while ex-DP leader Renho stated, "We will discuss matters including whether the current leader is acceptable at the general meeting of (DP lawmakers in) both houses of the Diet."

Meanwhile, the CDP held a meeting of all its lawmakers on Oct. 24. There, leader Yukio Edano warned party members, "If people get the mistaken idea that we are here just to make up the numbers in the Diet, then their expectations will shift away from us in the blink of an eye," suggesting the opposition parties would not be reunited anytime soon. The CDP lawmakers also decided to make policy chief Kiyomi Tsujimoto chairwoman of the party's Diet affairs panel.

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