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Japan's largest opposition party emphasizes human rights in its party platform

Japan's largest opposition party emphasizes human rights in its party platform

Tokyo, Oct 13, Japan's largest opposition group unveiled a campaign platform on Wednesday that said it would stand for rights like supporting same-sex marriage and different surnames for couples, highlighting differences with the conservative ruling party.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), headed by Yukio Edano, will face a critical test in the Oct 31 general election, the first it has entered since its formation last year, trying to consolidate the government coalition with ostensibly majority in parliament.

However, it is having a tough time in polls and, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also focusing on social safety nets, policies long advocated by the Democratic party from which the CDPJ was born, is facing battling to establish its own territory.

Yukio Edano, the CDPJ's leader, said that the emphasis on legal measures towards diversity would be one of the biggest differences between the two groups, despite the fact that both the LDP and CDP would continue to focus on nuclear power, which they would retain as an option.

"This is clearly our biggest difference - (allowing) couples with different surnames, equality laws for LGBTQ, and laws recognising same-sex marriage," he added.

"We'd like a complete strengthening of human rights so that nobody is left behind," he added.

The LDP is a social conservative party, and while progress has been made in respect of LGBTQ rights in society, much more work needs to be done. New Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during the LDP leadership race that he was not in favor of marriages of the same sex, for example.

The CDPJ's origins lie in the Democratic Party of Japan, which defeated the LDP-Komeito alliance in 2009 and held power for a little more than three years, including the March 11, 2011 tsunami and disaster at the nuclear power station in Fukushima, both of which gave the party an image of failure in voters' eyes.

Only 13% of people were planning to vote for them, well behind the LDP's 47%; most other polls record support in the single digits. A recent survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily found that only 17% were considering voting for the coalition, far behind LPD'' 42%; many other surveys report support only in single-digit numbers.

Furthermore, the LDP has co-opted several of their positions on social safety nets and income distribution, according to Airo Hino, a political science professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.

"Kishida has really drawn a lot closer in his policies to what the CDPJ has been saying, so it's going to be pretty difficult for them to distinguish themselves," he said.

Criticising the LDP may be a way for it to do so. Edano said Kishida's administration was no different from that of his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. Suga's tenure, in particular, saw the LDP' swoon, while Abe'' final days were marred by money scandals.

"If either Abe or Suga were in power, it would be a lot easier for the opposition," Hino said. "But with Kishida, it's hard to tell how far criticism will take them unless they can develop their own distinct character," he added.

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