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Leaders of Japan's two main opposition parties fail to agree on merger

Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano, right, and Yuichiro Tamaki, his counterpart for the Democratic Party for the People, are seen speaking with reporters at the Diet after their meeting on Jan. 10, 2020. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The leaders of Japan's two main opposition parties -- the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) -- fell short of a merger agreement on Jan. 10.

The parties' failure to reach a merger pact despite repeating meetings between their leaders suggests strongly that they remain hobbled by the "indecisive politics" that plagued their predecessor, the now defunct Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) that was in power from 2009 to 2012.

The CDP and the DPFP will each hold intraparty meetings next week to report the details of the negotiations and consult with their legislators. The DPFP has also decided to postpone a party convention scheduled for Jan. 19.

The meeting between CDP leader Yukio Edano and DPFP chief Yuichiro Tamaki at the Diet was also attended by CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama and his DPFP counterpart Hirofumi Hirano.

Prior to the talks, a senior DPFP legislator said "it won't take so long" to agree on the proposed merger. However, Edano and Tamaki failed to reach a conclusion in the about three-hour meeting. An individual familiar with the talks quoted Tamaki as telling the CDP at the outset, "We'd like to go back to the drawing board."

The four men met reporters after the meeting but only Edano commented, stating, "We agreed to refer what we've discussed to deliberation by the respective parties. We also confirmed that we won't disclose the contents and details of what we've talked about."

The four declined to answer questions and ended the media scrum after only a minute a half.

The CDP and DPFP secretaries-general had already completed the coordination of views on the merger between the two parties, with only the agreement between their leaders left to finalize. Edano and Tamaki apparently spoke for a total of more than 10 hours from Jan. 7 to 10, including informal discussions.

A senior CDP official told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Frankly speaking, the outcome came as a surprise to me. The (merger) package had been determined and everything was going smoothly until Jan. 9." Another senior CDP member also said, "The two parties had been expected to reach an agreement but Mr. Tamaki didn't give the go-ahead."

The CDP and the DPFP had been holding talks on the assumption that the CDP would absorb the DPFP, that the name of the CDP would be retained and that the new party's platform would be drawn up based on the CDP's current policies. However, Tamaki has been caught between DPFP legislators in favor of the merger with the CDP, and those opposing the CDP's planned absorption of their party.

After the meeting, Tamaki stated that the two parties "have agreed on nothing."

DPFP heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa expressed regret at the outcome of the Jan. 10 meeting and urge Tamaki to "fulfill his responsibility and make last-ditch efforts" to reach an accord.

Meanwhile, a senior CDP member reacted coolly to the DPFP's move, saying, "It's no longer possible for the DPFP as a whole to merge with us. Probably, they have no choice but to split."

(Japanese original by Itsuo Tokubo and Minami Nomaguchi, Political News Department)

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