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2 parties to merge to form largest opposition parliamentary group in upper house

Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki, left, and Liberal Party head Ichiro Ozawa (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The leaders of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) and the Liberal Party (LP) agreed on a plan to merge the two opposition parties during a meeting at a hotel here on Jan. 22.

DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki and his LP counterpart Ichiro Ozawa reached the accord after judging that it was necessary for the two parties to band together in order to gain an advantage in this summer's House of Councillors election and respond to Diet affairs effectively, according an individual familiar with the arrangement.

The merger plan will be finalized after the two parties hold intraparty discussions on the matter.

Even if the LP converges with the DPFP, they will not be large enough to surpass the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) in the House of Representatives. In the upper house, however, the combined group to be led by the DPFP will overtake the 25-member alliance led by the CDP by two seats, becoming the largest opposition parliamentary group in the chamber.

The move by the DPFP and LP leaders is apparently aimed at regaining their initiatives in the upper chamber amid the recent trends of independent legislators joining the CDP.

As CDP leader Yukio Edano has dismissed party mergers in the opposition camp, Ozawa apparently turned to the DPFP as a "second best measure" for opposition realignment, according to an individual close to the situation.

Speaking to reporters on the evening of Jan. 22, Tamaki admitted that he held a meeting with Ozawa and said, "We will boost our collaboration. I'd like to put the matter to intraparty debate while keeping various options open."

The LP currently retains two seats in the lower house and four in the upper house. The Social Democratic Party, which has formed a parliamentary alliance with the LP in the upper chamber, is not expected to join the DPFP-LP merger move.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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