Confronted by a giant ruling coalition formed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner Komeito in the wake of the House of Representatives election, Japan's opposition parties now face the important issue of how to regroup and restore their power.
Because the Democratic Party (DP) broke up when the lower house was dissolved for the Oct. 22 election, the largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), now only has 55 seats in the 465-seat chamber -- the lowest number for the largest opposition party since 1955. It appears that the opposition parties have spread out and weakened.
On Oct. 24, the DP held a general meeting of members of the House of Councillors, and discussed a response to the breakup of the party. Meanwhile, the Party of Hope, which had a poor showing in the election, losing several seats, planned a meeting of its lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet on Oct. 25.
Following the defeat of the Party of Hope in the election, some DP members in the House of Councillors have called for a regrouping.
In the election, however, people cast votes for newly formed parties and candidates other than those belonging to the DP. It is unlikely the idea of lawmakers returning to their "original sheath" now that the election is over would sit well with voters. It is only natural for Yukio Edano, leader of the newly formed CDP, to reject the idea of regrouping simply to boost the number of legislators.
In line with the breakup, the problem of groups that differ on security policy and other issues residing under the same political roof has been resolved. Realignment of DP legislators in the House of Councillors, too, is probably a natural step.
In the general election, the CDP garnered votes from those opposing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But the CDP's strong showing is due largely to the counteraction from its lawmakers who were eliminated from the Party of Hope. As things stand, it will be difficult to provide a new axis around which opposition forces can gather.
Meanwhile, the situation the Party of Hope finds itself in is serious. Party leader Yuriko Koike exudes a strong impression of operating a "private shop," and that worked against her in the election. In the end, most of the candidates in her party who were elected originally came from the DP.
The Party of Hope, with Koike in charge, is actually comprised mostly of conservative members who previously belonged to the DP. In order for it to function as a political party, officials need to take a renewed look at policies and the issue of governance.
In order to confront the LDP which stands alone as a powerful party, it is desirable for the opposition parties, which have spread out and weakened, to first collaborate on the faction level in the Diet, and build up results from their cooperation. To realign themselves, the opposition parties should probably first proceed by finding common ground on principles and basic policies.
Since June this year the Abe administration, has taken the rare move of refusing to engage in full-scale debate in the Diet with the exception of out-of-session proceedings. The opposition parties should unite and call for the swift convening of an extraordinary session of the Diet.