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At 1 yr old, CDP faces challenges ahead of upper house election clash with ruling LDP

Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano gives a speech at a news conference in Osaka, on Sept. 28, 2018. (Mainichi/Yumi Shibamura)

The opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) is preparing to mark the first anniversary of its founding on Oct. 3. However, it has yet to gain a solid regional presence ahead of next year's House of Councillors election, and it remains to be seen whether it can evolve from a party relying on favorable political winds into an organized force.

In a Sept. 28 news conference in Osaka, CDP leader Yukio Edano announced that the party would field a new candidate in the city, where four seats will be contested in the summer 2019 upper house election. He expressed a desire to send in more candidates in the future.

"We're approaching one year since our founding. We're going ahead with work to field candidates on the assumption that we have to make this election one in which the hopes placed in us in the (October 2017) House of Representatives election are presented in a clearer form in the Diet," Edano said.

The party is planning various events to mark its first year, including some in the style of a U.S. or European political rally in the style of a U.S. Democratic Party convention, with talks by Edano and other party members. In doing so, it hopes to underscore its "freshness" as a party.

Nevertheless, the party has still not gained a firm regional footing, though it has 75 Diet members -- and more than 80 if counting members of CDP factions in both chambers of the Diet. Its lack of regional presence stems partly from the party's roots. The CDP was formed after splintering from the Democratic Party (DP) in autumn last year as the DP was effectively merging with the then Party of Hope. The split came as a backlash to a comment made by the Party of Hope's leader at the time, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, that she would "eliminate" some DP members. As of Sept. 25, the CDP had regional organizations in just 33 of Japan's 47 prefectures, and its number of local assembly members stood at 478.

Furthermore, in Mainichi Shimbun opinion polls, the party's support rating has never risen higher than 14 percent. The rating stood at 9 percent in a poll in September. One figure associated with the party said that major affairs are handled by Edano and the party's secretary-general, Tetsuro Fukuyama. Escaping from overreliance on Edano thus remains an issue for the party.

In the 2019 upper house election, the CDP plans to join hands with opposition parties to strategically win constituencies where only one seat is being contested by deciding together which candidates they will field and back. However, the party has so far selected only eight candidates in constituencies and under the proportional representation system. The CDP has agreed with other main opposition parties to file jointly backed candidates in constituencies where only one seat is up for grabs in a bid to defeat ruling coalition candidates.

A member of the fellow opposition Democratic Party for the People, which is proposing to form a united front with other opposition parties in districts where two seats are up for grabs, said if the CDP kept to its hardline stance of not coordinating with other opposition parties in such districts, it could work to the advantage of the Abe administration. An official of the opposition Japanese Communist Party also questioned the CDP's stance, saying that the Democratic Party for the People was more open to cooperation among opposition parties than the CDP seems to be. These are signs of smoldering discontent with the CDP's go-it-alone approach.

(Japanese original by Masahiro Tateno and Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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