As the strength of the party is slumping and discontent with its leadership is growing, there was probably no alternative for quelling the disturbance within the party.
At an informal meeting of all Democratic Party Diet members from both chambers, Yoshihiko Noda, the party’s secretary general, announced that he will resign from his post to take responsibility for the party’s defeat in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. As the reason for his resignation, he said, “With regard to the failure in party governance, the responsibility of the secretary general, as the linchpin of party governance, is grave.”
In the metropolitan assembly election, the DP failed to attract votes cast as criticism of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, winning only five seats. A number of its incumbent and first-time candidates gave up on the party and changed their party affiliation to Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group) before official campaigning for the election kicked off.
Noda, a former prime minister, had supported DP President Renho as a “seconder.” It can be said that Noda bore the blame for Renho, who had been criticized for the party’s defeat in the election. It will be a heavy blow to Renho, who has a weak following in the party.
Renho has set out to choose a successor to Noda. There is strong opposition to appointing anyone who held a key post when the party — then the Democratic Party of Japan — was in power, while the ability of younger members is still unknown. She will make her decision as soon as the early part of August, with the aim of carrying out a reshuffle of other party executives, as well. As it will also involve the party’s new policy line, Renho faces a crucial juncture.
To the informal meeting, Renho presented a draft report that summed up the metropolitan assembly election and won general approval. Noting that votes cast as criticism of the Liberal Democratic Party went to Tomin First and the Japanese Communist Party, the draft expressly admits the party’s “crushing defeat.” It also makes a harsh self-criticism: “While the course of action our party is pursuing is not clear, its basic policy has been shaken.”
Make its policies clear
As the party was formed in March last year as a “hodgepodge of members of different stripes,” the report also mentions “maintaining unity as a party” as a challenge.
But even after the metropolitan election, a situation continues in which the party leadership and a non-mainstream group fiercely confront each other over issues such as how the party should be managed.
At this moment, the situation has become so serious that calls for disbanding the party have become rife within its ranks. Being questioned is whether the party would be able to carry out concrete measures to improve itself, taking into account factors contributing to its defeat in the election.
One factor in the DP’s chronic slump is that the party has become a mere “resistance party,” consistently attacking the Abe administration.
The summary draft emphasizes that with regard to its cooperation with the JCP and other parties, the DP should make clear such issues as its policies and its ideal of what the state should be like and take the leadership in the possible partnership. The draft also referred to the party’s amending its relations with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) — an organization that backs the DP — with which there has been conspicuous discord over such issues as nuclear power policy.
If the DP forms a united front with the JCP for the next House of Representatives election, it is a major precondition that they agree on realistic platforms on basic policies. The DP must avoid going overboard with election cooperation with the JCP, in response to the victory of a candidate supported jointly by the DP, the JCP and another party in the Sendai mayoral election.
Deciding how the DP should deal with Tomin First will also be a task in the days ahead.
Renho has asserted that she will leave the House of Councillors and throw her hat in the ring for the lower house. She will run from a single-seat constituency in Tokyo. By cutting the line of retreat for herself and being at the front of the election campaign as one candidate, she apparently aims at reinforcing her leadership to promote internal unity, but the road ahead will be tough.