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Editorial: Old conflicts carried over into new Party of Hope after leadership vote

House of Representatives member Yuichiro Tamaki has been elected co-leader of the opposition Party of Hope, and will represent the party in the Diet as it is co-led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

The election of a co-leader had been a one-on-one contest between Tamaki and fellow lower house member Hiroshi Ogushi. Both Tamaki and Ogushi had previously belonged to the Democratic Party (DP), which was formerly the largest opposition party in both houses of the Diet.

The biggest point of contention during the race was whether the party should hold to Koike's policy line following the party's loss in the Oct. 22 lower house election.

Koike had demanded that those who wished to join the Party of Hope sign a policy agreement supporting constitutional revisions and basically approve the security legislation that has opened the way for Japan's limited exercise of the right to engage in collective self-defense. The wording of a paragraph in the policy agreement on the security legislation was modified to state that the laws "should be applied in an appropriate manner in line with the Constitution." Still, support for constitutional amendment and the security legislation are the core elements of Koike's basic policy line.

During the race, Ogushi expressed his objection to these two policies, arguing that war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution did not need to be revised and that he did not support the security laws. Tamaki, who follows Koike's policy line, defeated Ogushi, winning 39 of the 53 votes cast by legislators with the party.

The DP's stance on the Constitution and the security legislation before the dissolution of the lower chamber on Sept. 28 was the same as what Ogushi had insisted on during the race to elect a co-leader. Mainly conservative legislators within the DP, who were opposed to the party's policy, joined the Party of Hope founded by Koike and other politicians. As a result, those who support constitutional revisions and approve the security legislation have outnumbered opponents in the new party. Still, the longtime conflict over basic policies that existed within the DP has effectively been carried over into the Party of Hope.

Cooperation with other opposition parties was another key point of contention during the Party of Hope race. Tamaki has taken the position that the Party of Hope should consider whether to join hands with other opposition parties on each policy issue while maintaining that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's political predominance should not be tolerated.

In contrast, Ogushi has argued that the Party of Hope should form a parliamentary alliance with the DP, the largest opposition party in the House of Councillors, and the liberal Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the largest opposition group in the lower chamber, which splintered from the DP. In other words, Ogushi has taken the position of reassembling legislators who belong to or hail from the DP.

The three parties share the view that they should confront the Abe government. Even though Tamaki is cautious about forming a joint parliamentary bloc between the three opposition parties, he intends to promote loose cooperation between them in the legislature.

However, if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were to move to initiate constitutional revisions during next year's regular Diet session, it could intensify conflict within the Party of Hope. If cooperation between opposition parties were to be shaken by such a move, it would only benefit the ruling bloc.

One cannot help but wonder what the significance of the split of the DP was. It could have been positively interpreted as a move to put an end to the DP's intraparty policy conflict and realign opposition parties based on philosophy and basic policies. However, the Party of Hope's election of a co-leader has left the party with a bitter feeling that could lead to a split.

Diet deliberations will get under way next week on issues including a favoritism scandal involving Kake Educational Institution, which is run by a close friend of Prime Minister Abe. Even though opposition parties are divided, their role of raising questions about the government in the Diet remains unchanged.

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