Japan’s opposition parties appear to have finally woken up to the fact that they need to cooperate and collaborate if they are to ever topple the political behemoth that is the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which impressed few people when it was in power for three years from 2009, has announced it is to merge with the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin) and adopt a new name. The realignment in the opposition’s ranks comes at the same time as the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) declared that it will refrain from putting forward candidates in some constituencies in the anticipated elections for both the Upper and Lower houses of the Japanese parliament. And while that move may fall short of the JCP actively working with its rivals, the move is designed to help opposition parties put forward unified candidates to better challenge the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito. Despite the opposition parties’ efforts to draw a veil over their patchy political histories – only the JCP can be proud of its showing in the 2014 general election, with the 21 seats it took an increase of 13 – analysts do not anticipate the LDP’s leadership suffering too many sleepless nights over this realignment. It strikes me as more an act of desperation, of two parties that need to look new to try to get a fresh start with the voters Jeff Kingston Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, described the merger of the DPJ and Ishin as “a reunion of old flames; two parties with nowhere to go, not much of a future, no core constituencies and no star power”. “Without this effort to reinvent themselves, both parties’ days were numbered,” he told the South China Morning Post. The DPJ won just 73 of the 475 seats contested in the 2014 election, while Ishin took 21. Yet “a new name and a new banner” alone will not be sufficient to woo voters, Okumura said. “Without any distinguishing policies to mark them out, how will they compete with the ruling coalition?” he asked. Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University, agrees. “It strikes me as more an act of desperation, of two parties that need to look new to try to get a fresh start with the voters,” he said. “But I don’t think the LDP is worried.” Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary general of the LDP, indicated his disdain at a press conference on Tuesday, describing the planned new party as “an unprincipled coalition” created simply for the election. “People may not be super-keen on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the shine has come off ‘Abenomics’ recently, but the opposition remains feeble and fractured,” Kingston said. Yet there is potential for a party that is able to stand up to Abe. Less then 25 per cent of the eligible voters took part in the last election, with the LDP winning a landslide victory with just half of those voters. Non-participation in elections effectively helps the LDP, Kingston said, so an opposition that is able to mobilise those who do not back Abe’s policies may stand a chance of taking seats from his party. Abe’s support rate crashed 7 per cent in the polls conducted in February from one month earlier, thanks to the state of the economy and a number of his ministers embroiling themselves in scandals, but that just goes to show how “fragile” the prime minister’s rule remains. For Abe, his biggest concern may be that the two-thirds of the chamber that he requires in both the Upper and Lower houses of the Diet to rewrite the constitution may now be unattainable. It has been Abe’s long-held political dream to update a constitution that many conservatives believe was imposed upon Japan by the victorious Allies after the second world war, but two-thirds is a high hurdle and the prime minister cannot afford to slip in the polls any further. All opposition parties oppose revising Constitution. Requiring only one-third of the total seats in either chamber, may be the single issue that serves to bring them close enough together to frustrate Abe.