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Japan Election 2017: Liberal voters stranded in no-man's-land

With the upcoming House of Representatives election essentially becoming a battle between two conservative options -- the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito alliance and the newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope) -- liberal voters who have no real connection to either side are beginning to feel a sense of crisis.

Such voters have been critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's rush to amend the Constitution, as well as of Japan's new security legislation, making it unclear which party they will turn to on election day on Oct. 22.

"I don't want massive change but I'm uncomfortable with the Abe administration. Who on earth are people that are skeptical about movements related to constitutional revision supposed to vote for?" asked one liberal-minded voter on Twitter. Meanwhile, another tweeted, "Many voting options have disappeared -- leaving a load of 'election refugees.'"

Yasumasa Chiba, a 26-year-old graduate student at Meiji University Graduate School and one of the key members during a protest by Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) outside the Diet in 2015, said, "I'm honestly disappointed by the choice of Seiji Maehara of the Democratic Party (DP). There is no longer a viable alternative." He added, "The clearer the outline of the election as one for choosing a government becomes, the more readily issues relating to the security legislation will be swept under the carpet."

SEALDs was particularly helpful in the formation of a four-party united front including the DP and Japanese Communist Party (JCP) during the House of Councillors election in 2016. However, on this occasion, this united front has essentially been blown away by the emergence of Kibo no To. A source affiliated with the JCP explained, "Even if we receive votes from liberal voters, we will still be overwhelmed by (the LDP and Kibo no To) in an election where voters' choice of government comes into focus."

Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano, who specializes in politics, has also expressed reservations about the election becoming a two-horse race between the LDP with its "Seize back Japan" slogan and Kibo no To, whose call has been, "Reset Japan."

"Kibo no To is a completely unknown quantity," he wrote on Twitter. "It is certain that the LDP and Kibo no To will win most of the seats. Nevertheless, it is necessary for voters to think beyond the election, and consider what might happen in the future."

The Civil Alliance for Peace and Constitutionalism, which is calling for the abolishment of Japan's security laws and the return of constitutionalism and has backed the opposition party united front, criticized the DP's plan to team up with Kibo no To, founded and led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

"The cooperative framework between the people and the opposition parties has been impaired, and we are keenly aware of our lack of strength. We want to continue to seek out ways of possibly revitalizing the united front," the coalition said in a statement released on Sept. 29.

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