Democratic Party (DP) President Katsuya Okada is making preparations for his reelection in the party’s presidential election in September. He is proud of having succeeded in putting a stop to the party’s mood of decline through cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and other opposition parties in the recent House of Councillors election. “Acting President” Renho, a close confidant, also intends to refrain from running in the presidential race if Okada is seeking reelection. However, criticism in the party against DP-JCP cooperation remains strong. There is no denying that Okada’s path to reelection will not be easy.
The DP won 32 seats in the Upper House election, almost double the 17 seats in the 2013 election under the old Democratic Party of Japan. Some party members indeed hail Okada’s decision to form a united front with the JCP.
Although Okada is saying that he has not made any decision on whether to run in the presidential election, he has been stating repeatedly that “the party is still in the process of restructuring,” which is a clear indication of his desire for reelection.
The biggest issues in the party presidential election are constitutional revision and DP-JCP cooperation.
Previously, Okada had refused to even discuss constitutional revision under the Abe administration. However, after the Upper House election, he has shifted to a position of only engaging in constitutional debate on provisions other than Article 9 on certain conditions, such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “adherence to constitutionalism.”
On the other hand, he remains enthusiastic about the united front with the JCP. He stated on a NHK TV program on July 10, “New politics involving the citizens has begun. We would like to accelerate this trend.” He is now using subtle expressions that imply possible approval of the JCP’s proposal for a “national coalition government.”
At a news conference on July 25, JCP General Secretary Akira Koike also spoke favorably about DP-JCP cooperation saying, “This is of decisive importance for changing the political trend. We would like to discuss it positively.” Okada and Koike seem to be in agreement.
However, there is also strong criticism in the DP against cooperation with the JCP. Former State Minister for Defense Akihisa Nagashima asserted that “this will only make us a perennial opposition party.” Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, and other members of the anti-Okada forces are seeking to field a single candidate in the presidential election. Okada’s support base is not rock-solid. (Slightly abridged)