Japan: Ex-DP lawmakers’ fates diverge as campaign heats up

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The latest House of Representatives election is an unusual contest that has seen members of the Democratic Party, formerly the main opposition party, split into three groups  those running with Kibo no To (Party of Hope), the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and as independents.

 An earlier election survey predicted that opposition votes will be divided between Kibo and the CDPJ, with the former winning around 60 seats and the latter over 40 seats, both far short of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s seat tally.

 Even so, combined with independent candidates who are polling well, the three groups have the momentum necessary to significantly exceed the 87 seats the DP held at the time of the dissolution of the lower house.

 Among former DP members, moves are under way to reunite after this election. Independent candidates with significant experience are expected to play a major role in building a network to facilitate mutual support and cooperation in information sharing.

 However, verbal warfare between opposition parties is intensifying, making it unclear whether they can establish such cooperation.

 Of the former DP lower house members, 42 are running with Kibo in single-seat constituencies, and about 70 percent of them are running in close races. One such candidate is Sumio Mabuchi, who won in Nara Constituency No. 1 in the previous general election. Only five candidates, including Yuichiro Tamaki in Kagawa Constituency No. 2, have established a clear lead in their race.

 Almost half of the 15 former DP members who chose to join the CDPJ are also running in close races, while many others have established clear leads, including Yukio Edano in Saitama Constituency No. 5. The CDPJ appears to be garnering support from voters who are dissatisfied with Kibo’s decision to embrace a “logic of exclusion” and ask DP members to accept its conservative policies.

 “[The CDPJ] could succeed in securing a core support base because they consistently put forth their policies,” a senior LDP member said.

 Half of the 21 members who chose to run as independent candidates have taken clear leads. Political heavyweights in particular are securing stable support, including Seiji Maehara in Kyoto Constituency No. 2, who as DP president took the initiative to encourage DP members to join Kibo, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Chiba Constituency No. 4, and former DP President Katsuya Okada in Mie Constituency No. 3.

 Independent candidates who run in single-seat constituencies are fighting with their backs to the wall because they cannot also field themselves as candidates in the proportional representation segment.

 These candidates can be said to have chosen to run as independents because they already possessed strong electoral support bases.


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