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Common agenda imperative for opposition election cooperation: JCP head

Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, is seen during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 19, 2017. (Mainichi)

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap general election in October, the Mainichi Shimbun interviewed Japanese Communist Party (JCP) leader Kazuo Shii over how far cooperation among opposition parties will extend in their potential election campaigns. The following is an excerpt of his comments during the interview.

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Prime Minister Abe's move to consider dissolving the lower house at the outset of the extraordinary Diet session is aimed at covering up the series of allegations over the scandal-hit school corporations Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution. Opposition parties demanded in June this year that an extraordinary Diet session be convened based on a constitutional provision to thoroughly grill the government over the allegations. Abe, however, left the demand unaddressed for a good three months before mulling to disband the lower chamber without any deliberations in the upcoming extraordinary session. This is an ultimate move to serve the interests of his ruling coalition and runs counter to the Constitution.

In the potential general election, the question of whether voters can allow the Abe administration's "reckless politics" to continue any further will be called into question. The Abe government has handled the affairs of state in a manner that quashes the will of many members of the public, such as taking national politics into its own hands and destroying the Constitution by introducing security legislation and other laws.

As a result, a major backlash broke out, as evident in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July where Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a historic defeat. By strengthening that momentum, we want to make the potential general election one that will oust the Abe government.

To that end, it is necessary for opposition parties and citizens to form a united front. Such a mechanism emerged between citizens and four opposition parties (the then Democratic Party of Japan, the predecessor of the Democratic Party; the Japanese Communist Party; the then People's Life Party, which was later renamed as the Liberal Party; and the Social Democratic Party) amid campaigns against the security legislation (in 2015).

In last year's House of Councillors election, opposition parties fielded joint candidates in all the 32 constituencies where only one seat each was up for grabs, and managed to win in 11 of those electoral districts. If opposition parties are to field joint candidates and band together with citizens (in the possible general election), they will surely be able to topple the Abe government.

In order for such a united front to come about, opposition parties will need to promote a major campaign slogan to demonstrate what they aim to achieve. They must make clear their common agenda. The opposition bloc wouldn't be able to win the election if the JCP were to unilaterally withdraw its candidates. Their real strength will be maximized when opposition parties mutually support and endorse their candidates. If the opposition bloc fails to be united, they will only end up playing into Abe's hands. If the opposition parties are to share this awareness and communicate well, they will find a way.

Lower house legislator Masaru Wakasa, who is a close ally of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who defected from the Democratic Party, are in talks to form a new party. I wonder why they are making such a fuss. The nascent party would only become a supplementary force for the LDP. I don't think it will work out. (Interview by Muneyoshi Mitsuda, Political News Department)

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