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Labor union chief: DP’s merger with Party of Hope, eventual split a “blunder”

Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation) Chairman Rikio Kozu revealed during an interview with Asahi Shimbun that he was present at the secret meeting between (then) Democratic Party (DP) President Seiji Maehara and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Sept. 26, where the decision on the DP’s merger with the Party of Hope was made. Looking back, he said that the political moves leading to the merger were a “blunder” and that his goal of “working for a two-party system that allows a change of administration remains unchanged.”


According to Kozu, he was informed by Maehara on the day of the meeting and was asked to participate in the meeting. He was also told that Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa would also be there, but Ozawa did not show up. Maehara proposed a “dual party membership scheme” under which DP members would become the Party of Hope’s official candidates while retaining their party membership. Kozu noted that Koike “was concerned that the merger would be seen as a mutual support society solely for election campaign purposes, so that probably led to her remark on ‘eliminating’ some DP members.”


Kozu met with Maehara at the DP headquarters on Sept. 30, after Koike’s remark on eliminating some members triggered divisions in the DP. He pressed Maehara to allow DP members to run in the election as the party’s candidates, telling him: “If you don’t do something about this, there will be trouble.” Maehara refused, telling him: “This amounts to asking me to resign as president.”


Kozu criticized Koike in particular for her “utterly clumsy and absurd response.” He also said: “Mr. Maehara remarked, ‘We cannot just sit idly by and wait for our death,’ and I was not in a position to tell him to wait for death.”


Kozu expressed his hope that the DP, the Party of Hope, and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) will come together eventually. However, he acknowledged, “There are people who are pinning their hopes on a clean break between the CDPJ and the Party of Hope and are averse to the idea of  regrouping immediately without reservation,” arguing that the process should begin with cooperation between political parties first.

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