Groups inside the Democratic Party (DP) are making active moves ahead of the party’s presidential election, with the official campaign period starting on Sept. 2 and voting taking place on Sept. 15. A majority in the group consisting of former Japan Innovation Party (JIP) members (23 members) and the group led by former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Akihiro Ohata (around 15 members) are supporting former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who has indicated his intention to run. On the other hand, the group consisting of former members of the defunct Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) (about 10 members) has indicated support for “Acting President” Renho. However, there are also dissenting opinions in each group, so some doubt if their members will be able to vote unanimously.
Maehara met with Ohata and deputy Policy Research Committee chief Atsushi Oshima at the Diet on Aug. 19 to discuss the policies he will advocate in the presidential election. After the meeting, Oshima said that, “I am comfortable (with Maehara’s ideas). Discussions about the specifics, such as endorsements, will take place next week.” He indicated that he will step up efforts to build consensus within his group.
The Ohata group and the group of ex-JIP members held a joint meeting on Aug. 17. According to a participant, there was a suggestion that “Maehara should be informed that members from the two groups will endorse his candidacy, so he can have peace of mind.”
The two groups together account for around 40 members. Adding the 25 or so members of the Maehara group will make up 40% of all DP Diet members. Maehara wants to make this the core of his support base.
However, “Acting President” Kenji Eda of the ex-JIP members’ group has also been meeting with Renho, in an effort to look into the possibility of supporting her. The group compiled on Aug. 19 a list of policies they are asking the presidential candidates to advocate. It appears that the Renho camp has indicated that she “accepts almost all the policies,” according to an aide, and is aiming at driving a wedge into the group of ex-JIP members.
Meanwhile, the ex-DSP members’ group has decided to give former Education Minister Yoshiaki Takagi and other group leaders a free hand in deciding whom to support. Takagi said that people in his home constituency have indicated their preference for Renho, thus hinting at his support for her.
The liberal group led by former House of Representatives Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu (around 20 members) will apparently support Renho. Although Akamatsu accepts Maehara’s candidacy in the belief that electing a president without a vote is undesirable, his aides indicate that “it will be difficult to support the conservative Maehara.” Renho is going into the election with the support of the group led by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (about 10 members) and Akamatsu’s group.