As Japan looks ahead to the ruling party's presidential election, which will effectively pick the country's new prime minister, official campaigning kicked off Monday in the race to choose the leader of a newly forming major opposition party.
Yukio Edano, 56, who heads the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and Kenta Izumi, 46, who is the policy chief of the Democratic Party for the People, have filed their candidacies for the election on Thursday for the president of the new party.
The country's two largest opposition forces will merge on Sept. 15, joined by 149 Diet members, in the hope of mounting a united front against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner the Komeito party.
But the election to choose the new opposition party chief has been outshone by the LDP's presidential race on Sept. 14 to pick the successor of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down due to ill health.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Edano said, "I am determined to lead the party while using the lessons I have learned through facing difficulties and setbacks."
He also told reporters he will try to "bring a feeling of tension back to politics by becoming a viable option people can choose."
Backed by members of his larger opposition party and powerful DPFP lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa, Edano is seen as leading the two-man race.
Edano has called for private spending to be stimulated amid the novel coronavirus pandemic by reducing or removing the 10 percent consumption tax for a limited time, exempting people earning 10 million yen ($94,000) or less annually from paying income tax and distributing 10,000 yen per month to each low-income individual.
He has proposed retaining the CDPJ as the new party's name.
Izumi, meanwhile, said at the joint press conference, "I will seek to make our party an opposition force that is not limited to questioning or criticizing (government policies) but capable of presenting its own policies" to the people.
He earlier told reporters he will create a "leading opposition that can live up to the expectations of the people."
Izumi has suggested removing the 10 percent consumption tax until Japan achieves 2 percent inflation and wants all people in the country vaccinated against the novel coronavirus free of charge.
He also wants the new party to adopt the name of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power between 2009 and 2012.
The CDPJ and the DPFP were created following the disbandment of the DPJ.
The CDPJ currently has 89 lawmakers -- 56 in the House of Representatives and 33 in the House of Councillors. The 62-member DPFP has 40 and 22 lawmakers in the lower and upper chambers, respectively.
DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki, who will not join the new party due to policy differences with the CDPJ, aims to create a new group with 14 parliamentarians.
About two-thirds of the DPFP members will join the new party, but even after the merger, the new party would still fall far short of the more than 450 seats held by the LDP, Komeito and their supporters in both chambers.
Official campaigning for the LDP presidential race will start Tuesday, and the winner is expected to be named the new prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Sept. 16.