In this Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 photo, ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Kazuya Maruyama speaks to reporters at a press conference after a meeting at parliament in Tokyo. (Toshiyuki Matsumoto/Kyodo News via AP)
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Japan's biggest and third-largest opposition parties Friday agreed to merge and reach out to smaller rivals, in what they hope will be a first step towards building an alternative to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's behemoth Liberal Democratic Party.The merger of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with the smaller Japan Innovation Party poses no immediate threat to Abe's ruling bloc, but the LDP's support is more fragile than recent landslide election wins suggest and polls show many voters would opt for a credible rival if they felt one existed.The LDP and its junior partner, the Komeito party, won a two-thirds "super-majority" in a December 2014 lower house election, but with record low turnout of about 53 percent.More than 35 percent of poll respondents backed no party at all, close to the 38.1 percent supporting the LDP.
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