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After much shuffling, election now a race between 3 political forces

Yukio Edano, deputy president of the Democratic Party, speaks at a news conference at a Tokyo hotel on Oct. 2, 2017, as he announces the formation of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. (Mainichi)

The upcoming House of Representatives election will be a race between three political blocs -- the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, the Kibo no To (party of hope)-Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) alliance and a liberal bloc led by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, a splinter group of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP).

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has declared that her party aims to field at least 233 candidates in the Oct. 22 election, over half of the chamber's 465 seats. However, as she has denied that she will run in the election, Kibo cannot convince voters that the party is a viable alternative as a new government.

Meanwhile, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the largest and second largest blocs will join hands in forming a government depending on the outcome of the general election.

Yukio Edano, deputy president of the DP, which has decided to effectively merge into Kibo, announced the formation of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan on Oct. 2 instead of joining Koike's new party. "We'll brush up the basic policies that have been handed down from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and (its successor) the DP, and present them to voters," Edano told a news conference.

Besides Edano, lower house candidates belonging to the DP who will not join Kibo -- mainly liberals -- are expected to join Edano's new party.

Despite the DP's decision to effectively merge into Kibo, Koike said she has no intention of taking on all DP members, suggesting Kibo, which she calls a "tolerant, reform-minded conservative party," will bar liberals.

The Constitutional Democratic Party, therefore, is effectively a political party for DP candidates that have been shunned by Kibo. The establishment of the new party is aimed largely at allowing candidates, who have a slim chance of winning in single-seat constituencies, to also run in proportional representation blocs.

In the DP presidential election this past September, Edano was backed mainly by liberal legislators. Therefore, most founding members of the Constitutional Democratic Party are liberals, including former lower house Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu and former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma.

At the same time, as Kibo is expected to bar even some conservative and centrist members, first-time candidates and former lower house members belonging to various DP intraparty groups have announced their intention to join the new liberal party. They include former DPJ leader Banri Kaieda, who lost his seat in the 2014 lower house race.

It is obvious, however, that the Constitutional Democratic Party is not sufficiently prepared for the general election. Edano demanded that his group split from the DP through an agreement and take over part of the latter's organizations and funds, but his request was rejected by DP leader Seiji Maehara.

"We've worked in the DP and prepared for the election together. I think the party will show consideration and extend cooperation to us to a certain extent," Edano told a news conference. However, there is no guarantee that the DP will cooperate with Edano and his new party.

Some DP members who previously served as prime minister or Cabinet ministers announced that they will run as independents.

"I'd like both those who will join Kibo and those who won't to work hard. What we mustn't forget is that we should defeat the Abe government, not Kibo," former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said.

Former DP President Katsuya Okada said he fielded most of the over 210 members, who intend to run in the upcoming general election, when he led the party, and said, "I'd like to support those who will become important politicians in the future."

Noda and Okada seek to reintegrate their fellow DP politicians, who will spread into three forces -- Kibo, the Constitutional Democratic Party and those who will run as independents -- after the election.

"A political party that can confront the LDP must embrace a wide range of legislators -- from conservatives to liberals. With two major parties (the LDP and Kibo) being conservative forces, a sound transfer of power would never occur," Okada wrote in a recent edition of his email magazine, expressing his view that Kibo is merely a transitional political party.

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