Photo/IllutrationYukio Edano holds a news conference on Oct. 2 to announce plans to form a new party. (Shingo Kuzutani)

Yukio Edano, deputy president of the main opposition Democratic Party, on Oct. 2 announced plans to form a liberal-leaning party that could become a third major force in the Oct. 22 Lower House election.

At a news conference in Tokyo, Edano said the new political group is called Rikken Minshuto (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan), and that the party would provide another choice for voters beyond the ruling coalition and Kibo no To (Party of hope).

Edano did not give a specific number of members for his party but said he was inviting all politicians who shared its principles.

Earlier on Oct. 2, Edano met with Rikio Kozu, chairman of Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), the largest support group for the Democratic Party. He is believed to have asked the nation’s largest umbrella union to support his new party.

After Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike established Kibo no To last week, a desperate Seiji Maehara, the Democratic Party president, asked her to allow all prospective Democratic Party candidates to run under the Kibo no To banner.

However, Koike quickly made clear that she had no intention of including everyone from the Democratic Party, particularly those opposed to constitutional revision and the new national security legislation.

Her party’s grading of candidate hopefuls, based largely on their policy positions and past comments, has led to indignant criticism from the more left-leaning elements of the Democratic Party.

A number of those liberal lawmakers made clear they would not join Kibo no To.

Rather than have such politicians run as independents in the Lower House election, Edano and his associates decided that forming a new party would be more advantageous in terms of political strategy.

A new party would allow candidates to run in both the single-seat and proportional representation constituencies, giving those who lose in their single-seat districts a chance to gain a Diet seat through the proportional representation constituency.

Before meeting with Edano, Rengo executives discussed strategy for the Lower House election and decided not to sign a policy agreement with Kibo no To. That decision stemmed from the party’s insistence on weeding out some Democratic Party candidates who wanted to run under the new party’s banner.

Rather than support a particular party, Rengo will concentrate its support on individual candidates.

The Lower House election will effectively be a three-way contest between the ruling coalition consisting of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito; Kibo no To and those who join from the Democratic Party; and Edano’s new party and other liberal elements, such as the Japanese Communist Party.

Hirotaka Akamatsu, a former Lower House vice speaker, said he would join hands with Edano because of the need for a party to represent liberals.

However, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda indicated on Oct. 2 he would run as an independent and not join the new party.

Naoto Kan, another former prime minister of the Democratic Party, is also unlikely to be a founding member of the new party.