The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), two key opposition parties, have finally agreed to form a parliamentary alliance in both chambers of the Diet to counter the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The Reviewing Group on Social Security Policy, led by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and some other smaller parliamentary groups will join the new bloc.
With the move, most of the groups that broke away from the now defunct Democratic Party are poised to take concerted action in the legislative branch of the government.
It is essential for opposition parties to form as large a bloc as possible in the Diet to counterbalance the huge governing coalition. Because of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's predominance in the political world, the Diet has devolved to become like a "subcontractor" of the executive branch. Under the circumstances, the opposition alliance has a grave responsibility to restore the authority of the legislative branch.
It was in early August that CDP leader Yukio Edano proposed to form a parliamentary alliance with the DPFP in the House of Representatives. The two parties subsequently agreed to participate in talks on forming an alliance in the House of Councillors as well. However, their talks over the union were prolonged, apparently because they were in conflict over the appointments of top officials of the new bloc. There is no doubt that people are fed up with the continual tug-of-war.
The general public does not appear to be interested in the formation of the CDP-DPFP parliamentary alliance because many cynically view the move as a revival of the collapsed political party. Both the CDP and the DPFP should be aware that they have few options.
Edano and DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki have explained that the formation of the parliamentary alliance is aimed at strengthening the Diet's function of monitoring the executive branch. If so, they should have swiftly agreed to form the alliance and strongly demanded that the extraordinary Diet session set to open on Oct. 4 be convened at an earlier date.
Sessions of both chambers' budget committees have not been held since this past April, which is an abnormal situation. Officials have also avoided out-of-session meetings to concentrate on dealing with intensifying conflict between Japan and South Korea and other important policy challenges. Under ordinary circumstances such meetings should be held immediately.
The success or failure of the alliance between the CDP and the DPFP hinges on whether it can change the Diet, which is being run at the Abe administration's convenience. Alliance leaders should coordinate questions that opposition parties ask in the Diet to prevent questions from overlapping, and have legislators ask questions about policy issues they specialize in. The CDP and the DPFP tend to ask questions in Diet sessions about scandals exposed by news organizations. They should enhance their ability to conduct their own investigations.
Of course there remain outstanding issues to be addressed, such as the alliance's cooperation with other opposition parties including the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, as well as newly established Reiwa Shinsengumi, in the next lower house election. But for now it is important for the alliance to ask the Abe administration tough questions on the policy measures it aims to implement.