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Democratic Party to effectively disband for united opposition front

The main opposition Democratic Party decided Thursday to join
forces with the newly established party led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko
Koike in the upcoming lower house election, effectively disbanding
itself to form a united front against the ruling Liberal Democratic

The Democratic Party, which has been struggling in opinion
polls, will now ask Koike's "Kibo no To" (party of hope) to back its
candidates in the Oct. 22 election, said the party's leader Seiji
Maehara who assumed his post just three weeks ago.

"I hope you all understand the decision to choose substance over
appearance," Maehara told a meeting of party lawmakers held after the
House of Representatives was dissolved.

"We want to make Kibo no To bigger and achieve a change of power
in this lower house election," said Maehara in a press conference
later Thursday.

The Democratic Party will not list its members in the
proportional representation blocks of the general election. Of 465
lower house members, 176 will be elected through proportional

The largest opposition party was launched in March 2016 through
the merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and a smaller party. The
DPJ was in power between 2009 through 2012.

The plan proposed by Maehara signals a major realignment of
opposition forces, with his party's group currently holding over 80
seats and Koike's party aiming to field over 100 candidates.

On Wednesday, Koike announced the launch of a "tolerant,
reform-minded conservative party" with 14 founding members, most of
whom have left the Democratic Party, including Goshi Hosono, a lower
house member who served as environment minister.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday originally scheduled to
discuss her running of the metropolitan government, Koike said she is
still "scrutinizing" how many candidates the party will field,
including current Democratic Party members keen to run with her
party's backing.

She brushed off speculation that she will quit as governor and
run for a parliamentary seat, also stopping short of giving detailed
party campaign pledges.

Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, which is
fielding candidates in most of the 289 single-seat constituencies,
said his party will field candidates against Democratic Party members
running under the Koike party banner.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the Democratic Party's
plan, telling a LDP meeting that the rise of such new parties in the
past had brought about "turmoil and an economic slowdown." (Sept. 28)

Seiji Maehara, head of Japan's moribund main opposition Democratic Party, arrives at the venue for a speech in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, on Sept. 29, 2017. Maehara got his party to agree a day earlier to effectively disband, and let its members run with the new party led by popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike in the Oct. 22 lower house election to unify the vote against the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Kyodo)