Opposition Democratic Party kicks off 3-way leadership race



Campaigning began Friday for the Democratic Party’s Sept 15 leadership election, with three candidates vying to replace the current leader who declined to stay on following a lackluster election performance.

Acting leader Renho, 48, hoping to become the first woman to lead Japan’s main opposition party, said at a joint press conference she will create a “new generation” party.

“By breaking the ‘glass ceiling,’ I want to bring cheer to as many women as I can, and to the men who support them,” said Renho, who goes by her first name only.

Former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, 54, vowed to fight for the realization of an “all for all” society as leader.

Maehara said consideration is needed over whether to continue with current party leader Katsuya Okada’s election strategy of jointly campaigning with smaller opposition parties further to the left despite ideological differences.

“Unless we properly take the conservative section (of voters), a change of government won’t come about in the (next) lower house election,” Maehara said at the press conference.

Lower house lawmaker Yuichiro Tamaki, who at 47 has served fewer terms in the Diet than his rivals, proposed issuing a government bond dedicated to supporting child-rearing and education to double the education budget over 20 years to 100 trillion yen ($968 billion).

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I’m still young and I’ve been re-elected too few times, but the Democratic Party won’t regain public trust without someone like me standing for election, shouting out that I’m prepared for change and having that be seen by the public,” Tamaki said.

The hopefuls have the task of convincing the caucus they can win back the trust of a public disillusioned by the 2009 to 2012 turn at power of the party’s predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has largely dominated the Diet for the rest of Japan’s post-World War II history.

All three candidates said Friday they want the party to participate in debate over constitutional revision, an issue being actively pursued by the ruling LDP.

Maehara stipulated several conditions for participation in the debate, including that Abe ensure that minority opinions be thoroughly taken into account in the constitutional revision process.

Okada has decided not to stay on at the helm of the Democratic Party to take responsibility for its performance in July’s upper house race, where the LDP and others in favor of constitutional reform cleared a legal hurdle to kick-start the amendment process. The new party leader’s term will run through to September 2019.

Renho served as minister for administrative reform during the DPJ’s rule, capturing public attention for her grilling of officials making budget requests. She has the support of various liberal groups and members of the current leadership including Okada and former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Maehara, who led the DPJ in opposition in 2005 and 2006 and held several Cabinet posts when in government, is endorsed by policy chief Shiori Yamao and groups linked to moderate Akihiro Ohata, a former transport minister.

Tamaki, vice chairman of the party’s Diet Affairs Committee and a former finance ministry bureaucrat, is supported by younger lawmakers and some former members of the Japan Innovation Party, which merged with the DPJ in March to form the present party.

The party’s Diet lawmakers and those approved to run in future Diet elections will cast their votes at the Sept. 15 convention after postal votes from regional assembly members and party supporters nationwide are counted.


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