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DP aims to transition to a new “middle-of-the-road” party

The Democratic Party (DP) held its first party convention since the House of Representatives election last October at a hotel in Tokyo on Feb. 4. The meeting decided on the party’s action program for 2018, centering on its goal to transition to a new middle-of-the-road party. With a view of reuniting with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Party of Hope, which split from the DP, the party intends to organize for the House of Councillors and simultaneous local elections in 2019, but it is facing numerous issues.


The action program embraces the concept of a middle-of-the-road “new party” that “sets up a platform for coordination of candidates with partner parties,” with the CDPJ and Party of Hope in mind.


The convention also adopted a report on the party’s activities in FY17, concluding that the decision by former President Seiji Maehara to merge with the Party of Hope was a “mistake” and apologizing to the people.


The DP is aiming at a swift transition to a new party because the party has been seriously weakened, and party members and local chapters have a strong sense of alarm that they may not be able to wage effective campaigns in the next election. The party is also facing financial problems with the government subsidy it is receiving being halved in FY18 because of the drastic reduction in the number of Diet members.


While the DP leadership under Kohei Otsuka has proposed forming a joint floor group in the Diet with the CDPJ and the Party of Hope, this has been rejected by the CDPJ. The idea of a joint floor group with the Party of Hope is also in limbo due to internal opposition.


Even with regard to coordinating candidates for the Upper House election, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano told reporters nonchalantly on Feb. 4 that “coordination (at the party level) will be difficult.”


Commenting on the time-frame for transition to a new party, Otsuka told a news conference held after the party convention: “We are looking at consolidating our ranks and reaching a consensus one year before the simultaneous local elections and the Upper House election.” He indicated that changing the party name will also be considered.

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