Japan’s fractured opposition unites as Suga set to succeed Abe
Eight years after Japan’s Democratic Party was ousted and began unravelling, opposition groups are once again unifying for a general election that could come soon, but they face an uphill battle to dent the current ruling bloc’s performance.
The drive to unite has taken on new urgency as the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) prepares to pick a new leader on Sept. 14 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month he would resign because of an illness.
According to Press TV, Japan’s centre-left opposition, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), will merge with most of its former colleagues in the Democratic Party for the People (DPP) next week after picking a new leader on Thursday.
The two groups, plus a batch of unaffiliated opposition MPs, emerged when the Democratic Party imploded in 2017 before a general election that the LDP won handily.
The newly merged party, to be formally launched on Sept. 15, could face an early test.
Abe’s lieutenant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, is expected to win the LDP race, virtually assuring he becomes premier because of the party’s majority in parliament.
Suga and the LDP have already gotten a bump in voter surveys, and speculation is mounting that he will swiftly call a general election.
A strong performance by the LDP would boost Suga’s chances of winning a full three-year term after finishing Abe’s tenure.
“Inside the LDP, everyone knows it (support rates) will never be this high again,” said Steven Reed, a professor emeritus at Chuo University. Support for the LDP had risen to 41% from 33% in a recent Yomiuri newspaper survey, compared with 4% for the CDPJ.
Abe’s nearly eight-year rule, which made him Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was aided by the fragmented opposition because of Japan’s electoral system, in which most constituencies elect a single member of parliament to the lower house.