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DPJ leader Okada barks, but showing little influence

  • 2015-11-04 15:00:00
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(Themis: November, 2015 – p. 12-13)


 Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada is rapidly losing influence within his party due to his poor handling of the security legislation. The party may be torn apart and vanish before the end of the year.


 On September 8, Okada was delivering a stump speech in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, lambasting the government’s attempt to railroad the security bills. Next to him was Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii. They were saying in chorus, “Scrap the war-linked bills immediately.”


 Okada’s close ties with Shii sent a shock wave to supporters of DPJ conservatives. “I’ve been losing him since he started criticizing the government for trying to introduce conscription during his one-on-one Diet debate with Prime Minister Abe,” said a DPJ conservative member. The person continued: “Secretary-General Yukio Edano was also on the same page as Okada. Their argument is that if the country is allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense by changing constitutional interpretation, conscription is also possible. The DPJ was once in power and there were calls for submitting a counterproposal on security legislation, but the party leadership flew off the handle at the suggestion.”


 Okada drew ire from party executives over his meeting with Shii. On September 19, Shii proposed the creation of a “national coalition government.” He envisaged cooperating with other opposition parties in elections to scrap the security legislation. Among them he approached the DPJ first and met Okada on September 25.


 Okada favored Shii’s proposal. But allying with the JCP would spark an outflow of loyal supporters. And People’s Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa is watching for every opportunity to seize power once a national coalition government is established. Criticism mounted within the party cadre that Okada has no idea of the consequences for the party. That took the wind out of Okada’s sails.


 “Okada easily becomes involved in things once they prick his interest, but when they become difficult to achieve, his attention flags–that is his bad habit,” said a DPJ senior member close to him. “The DPJ will have to pay consideration to the JCP if it accepts the coalition government proposal. Meanwhile, conservatives within the party are demanding the leadership come up with a counterproposal on security legislation. He was completely caught in a double bind.”


 Mid-ranking party members are also working behind the scenes to merge the DPJ and the Japan Innovation Party. Goshi Hosono, party policy chief, is loudly calling for renewing the DPJ as a new reform-centered party. The schism between him and Okada, who wants to maintain the status quo, is widening.


 Seiji Osaka, who is known as a party gadfly, recently said the party leader should be selected from among members who are in their 30s to 40s. Akihisa Nagashima, a party conservative and former state minister of defense, has been also discussing the possible disbandment of the DPJ. Ripples are spreading within the party. (Summary)

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