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Japan's new opposition party formally launched through merger

Yukio Edano, the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, makes a speech as the new main Japanese opposition force is formally launched in Tokyo on Sept. 15, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A new main Japanese opposition force was formally launched Tuesday through the merger of two smaller parties, aiming to become a viable alternative to the long-dominant ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    The new party headed by Yukio Edano took over the name of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the larger of the two parties, and became the first opposition force with 150 members since the Democratic Party disbanded in 2017.

    In a convention held at a Tokyo hotel, Edano expressed readiness to take on the upcoming government to be led by Yoshihide Suga, who was named LDP president on Monday and is set to become Japan's new prime minister and launch his own Cabinet on Wednesday.

    "Now is the time we have to present choices to the people," the 56-year-old chief told his fellow lawmakers, saying his party will push for "a society where people support each other," while the LDP-led government will promote "neoliberalism that requires excessive self-help."

    At the convention, the opposition party, formed by the CDPJ and the Democratic Party for the People along with some independent groups, approved its new executive lineup, including secretary general Tetsuro Fukuyama.

    Other senior members include policy chief Kenta Izumi, who was defeated by Edano in the party's leadership race last week, election strategy chief Hirofumi Hirano and Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi. Izumi and Hirano were members of the DPFP.

    The new party groups together 107 members of the House of Representatives and 43 in the House of Councillors, falling short of more than 450 seats held by the LDP, its junior coalition partner Komeito and their supporters in the two chambers.

    Amid speculation that Suga may dissolve the lower house for a general election soon after the launch of his government, Edano warned against such a move and urged the next premier to start parliament debates over responses to the coronavirus pandemic and measures against a series of natural disasters.

    As part of efforts to prop up the virus-hit economy, the opposition leader said at a press conference following the convention that his party plans to propose to the Suga government cutting the country's consumption tax from the current 10 percent.

    Edano also called for reducing the income tax rate for individuals with an annual salary of 10 million yen ($95,000) or less for a limited period.

    The LDP has ruled Japan almost continuously since its founding in 1955, falling out of power only twice -- in 1993-94 and 2009-2012.

    Suga has served as chief Cabinet secretary for seven years and eight months under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will step down for health reasons.

    Later Tuesday, Yuichiro Tamaki, who previously led the DPFP but did not join the new party citing policy differences with the CDPJ, formed a separate group composed of 15 parliamentarians.

    The CDPJ and the DPFP emerged after the breakup of the Democratic Party, which was formed in 2016 as the successor of the Democratic Party of Japan, which displaced the LDP from power in 2009.

    The DPJ, however, lost power in 2012 after disappointing voters with its internal fighting and handling of the 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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