Japan's new party to field dozens of candidates in general election

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/21 2:47:20

Independent lawmaker Masaru Wakasa announced plans Wednesday to field 50 or more candidates to form a new party ahead of the general election expected to take place here on Oct. 22.

Wakasa, who will jointly launch the new party with Goshi Hosono, the former environment minister who left the main opposition Democratic Party, said the party will be launched by Sept. 28 and be comprised of candidates from a political academy he has founded.

Sept. 28 is the date that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to dissolve the lower house of parliament to call a snap election, with voters going to the polls on Oct. 22.

Official campaigning for the national poll has been slated to kick off prior to that on Oct. 10.

Wakasa, who has not announced who will lead the new party but has said that he hopes his close ally Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike makes a return to national politics, will reportedly field candidates to cover all of Tokyo's 25 constituencies.

"I am considering fielding a large number of candidates. No less than 50," Wakasa was quoted as saying on a radio program. "For the sake of Japan, it will be a very wise choice for Koike to return to national politics and become a female prime minister," he said.

Wakasa's envisioned plan follows Koike's Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) sweeping victory in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly race in July, which is widely regarded as a barometer for the future direction of national politics.

Abe, who will return to Japan from the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, is expected to announce at a press conference on Monday his plans to dissolve the lower house of Japan's bicameral parliament on Sept. 28, when the lower chamber convenes for an extraordinary session.

Abe is expected to cite security issues and a planned consumption tax hike among his reasons for calling a snap election when he returns.

The opposition camp has criticized Abe's move to call a snap election, however, accusing the Japanese leader of merely trying to escape from the influence-peddling scandals he is currently implicated in and engineering his continued stay in power.

Main opposition Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara has accused Abe of trying to dodge accusations of cronyism and Koike has said that she could not understand the logic or purpose behind Abe's move to call a snap election.

Chairman of the Democratic Party's Diet affairs committee, Kazunori Yamanoi, for his part, has stated that it is preposterous for Abe to call a snap election just because he senses the ruling block can leverage more power in the current political climate.

The support rate for Abe's cabinet has improved moderately recently, and the opposition camp has cast aspersions on the prime minister for taking advantage of this and using the general election to carry out his personal, not political objectives.

The possibility that new opposition parties in the process of being formed won't have time to fully organize themselves and mount a serious challenge to Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in such a short space of time, has also been raised as a point of contention.

Senior lawmakers from the four main opposition parties will meet on Wednesday to reaffirm their commitment to demanding Abe answer questions related to LDP-linked scandals, including those levied at him related to cronyism.

The Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, sources close to them said, will also insist that along with Abe being grilled over recent scandals related to the LDP, a budget committee meeting is held prior to the dissolution of the lower chamber.

Political watchers here have stated that the socially and politically divisive issues of amending Japan's pacifist constitution and issues pertaining to Japan's security will be hotly debated in the upcoming election.

On Wednesday, LDP lawmaker Okiharu Yasuoka, who heads a panel on revising the constitution, said the party might include its intentions to revise the constitution in its campaign pledge.

"I think we can introduce in the campaign platform what we have discussed regarding constitutional amendments," Yasuoka was quoted as saying.

Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution, that the LDP is pushing to revise against public opinion, outlaws using war as a means to settle international disputes and prohibits armed forces with war potential being maintained.

There remains debate, however, within the LDP, as to whether the existing war-related clauses in the current constitution be kept intact but appended to refer to Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF), or the statement on the prohibition on maintaining military forces be removed.

Three other amendments to the constitution the LDP have floated comprise equal access to education, national emergency situations and vote weight disparities caused by population differences.

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