Facing a thorny path, Japan’s opposition seeks leadership

The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

Whether the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will be able to reconstruct itself will most likely hinge on how the race to replace DPJ President Banri Kaieda turns out. Much attention is focused on whether the new leader will try to reconstruct the party to regain the public support it once enjoyed or will aim to create a political force among opposition parties to counter the behemoth ruling camp. The DPJ failed to win as many seats as it hoped in Sunday’s election �X which saw its leader losing his seat �X although it was able to keep its status as the largest opposition party with 73 seats. Gloom hovered over the DPJ on Monday morning. ��I can’t think about such a difficult issue yet,�� a DPJ executive said about the presidential race. Japan Innovation Party co-leader Kenji Eda showed his stern look at a hotel in Tokyo on Sunday night. ��The defeat of the party head means that the DPJ has not been embraced by the people,�� said a DPJ member who stands at a distance from the current leadership. Acting President Katsuya Okada, former President Seiji Maehara and former Secretary General Goshi Hosono are being floated as possible candidates. Various movements toward the presidential contest will certainly be accelerated now that Kaieda officially announced his resignation on Monday. On Monday morning, Maehara told reporters in Kyoto that nothing had been decided about whether or not he will run in the race. He described the ideal new president as ��a person who has the determination and ability to eventually be prime minister�� as the representative of an opposition party aiming to create a system of two major parties. A member of Maehara’s group expressed high expectations for his candidacy by saying, ��It is certain he is a potential candidate.�� DPJ Election Campaign Committee chief Sumio Mabuchi said in Nara, ��My supporters told me to become the party head, but we must comprehensively analyze this election first.�� Maehara is a major proponent of reorganizing opposition parties to counter the ruling camp. Hosono shares his view and once said, ��We’d like to aim to take the reins of government by rehabilitating the DPJ and joining with other opposition parties.�� Many DPJ members support Hosono’s candidacy, as the election of a young leader would give the impression that the DPJ ��has gone through a generational change.�� Okada, meanwhile, reportedly puts emphasis on reconstructing the party. During the campaign, he never discussed joining forces with other opposition parties and, instead, coordinated mainly with the Japan Innovation Party simply to avoid fielding candidates in the same constituencies. DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano also said on Sunday night that ��a reorganization for the sake of gathering [a greater] number of seats will not be evaluated highly by voters.�� Azuma Koshiishi, former vice president of the House of Councilors, and many other DPJ lawmakers backed by labor unions are calling for resuscitating the party on its own. The Japan Innovation Party is warm to the idea of a realignment in the opposition camp. ��(The reorganization of the opposition camp) must be done with a pretty bold idea if we want to aim to take over the government,�� JIP co-leader Kenji Eda said at a press conference early Monday. The other JIP co-leader, Toru Hashimoto, also said Sunday night that opposition parties must be united, indicating the party’s willingness to cooperate with some segments of the DPJ.