Renho, who has announced her candidacy in the Democratic Party (DP) presidential election (start of official campaign period on Sept. 2, voting on Sept. 15) to choose the party’s leader after President Katsuya Okada’s term expires, is enjoying an increasing advantage. Former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, a leading member of the party’s conservative group, announced on Aug. 9 that he is not running and will probably support Renho. On the other hand, the conservative group is in disarray and having a hard time deciding on a single candidate to compete with Renho.
Hosono explained to reporters at the Diet on Aug. 9 why he is not running. He praised Renho’s statement at her news conference announcing her candidacy that she will be amenable to discussions on constitutional revision, terming her a “very promising candidate.” He will meet with Renho again later this month to hear her views on the united front with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and other opposition parties before making a final decision on whether to give his support.
Renho has the backing not only of her own group led by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (about 10 members), but also of the current DP leadership and the group led by former House of Representatives Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, a liberal heavyweight (about 20 members). Gaining the support of the Hosono group (about 15 members) will further increase her advantage.
Hosono’s leaning toward supporting Renho will seriously upset the conservative group’s scenario.
Although the group led by former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has about 25 members, some of the members also belong to other groups. It would be difficult for the group alone to get the 20 endorsements needed for candidacy in the presidential race. The group had met repeatedly with Hosono to ask for his support. However, some Hosono group members believe that generational change will not be possible with Maehara at the head of the party, so they were hesitant to give their support.
Maehara is now dismayed with Hosono. He talked to Akamatsu on Aug. 9 to request support, in an attempt to find a way to run in the election.
Former State Minister for Defense Akihisa Nagashima, who was the first one to announce his candidacy, is strongly opposed to a united front with the JCP. This position is slightly different from Maehara, who wants to keep this option open when the two parties can agree on policies. Therefore, the two sides have not been able to decide on a common candidate. (Slightly abridged)