On June 6, Edano Yukio (age 57), leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), began campaigning for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in Hachioji, Tokyo, saying “politics that only emphasize self-responsibility and competition have continued for a long time.” Edano visited nearly ten constituencies in the first weekend after candidacies were announced on June 25. Edano says “flyers are the most effective [tool] in an election.” Edano emphasizes the grass roots even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although netizens may call him “anachronistic,” Edano stresses the importance of “sensing the reaction of voters on the street.”
Diet members close to Edano call him a “realist.” Although Edano maintains some distance from the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), he built a cooperative relationship with the JCP for the sole purpose of laying the groundwork for a “one-on-one showdown with the ruling parties” in the next Lower House election.
In the April by-elections and reelection for both the Lower and Upper Houses, CDPJ-backed candidates won all three contested seats, including an Upper House Hiroshima seat, for which the CDPJ supported a candidate from another opposition party. The winning candidate in Hiroshima received 34,000 votes more than the ruling party candidate. Cooperation with the JCP, whose candidate received 70,000 votes in the 2019 Upper House election, was essential to the victory.
The CDPJ submitted a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet at the end of the last Diet session in line with the JCP, Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), and some in the CDPJ. Although Edano was sometimes cautious [about submitting a no-confidence motion], he chose this straightforward course of action for an opposition party facing a Lower House dissolution and general election.
On June 15, the day that the no-confidence motion was voted on, Edano called for a “temporary reduction of the consumption tax to 5%” at the plenary session of the Lower House. The call for a tax cut was a response to the JCP and DPFP.
Edano had been receiving JCP Chairperson Shii Kazuo’s (age 66) calls to “move forward on discussions on what an administration would look like.” Although Edano makes no outright refusals, no progress has been made because “there are some policy mismatches [between the two parties].”
Edano is paying close attention to the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and CDPJ members who are wary of the CDPJ approaching JCP. After Edano attended Rengo’s Central Executive Committee meeting, he emphasized that he is “not thinking” of launching a coalition government with the JCP.
Edano has experienced “defeat” in the past due to not having a firm grip on power.
Edano has confided that he felt “his worst” immediately after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration in 2009. Although his peers and those junior to him joined the Cabinet, Edano did not receive a position.
Edano did not get along well with Ozawa Ichiro (age 79), the DPJ secretary-general who controlled the party. When Ozawa lost power in the transition from the Hatoyama to the Kan administration, Edano was reinstated and became the DPJ secretary-general.
Edano also experienced defeat in the September 2017 Democratic Party leadership race. He lost to Maehara Seiji (age 59) in his first run for party leadership. Less than a month after the leadership race, Maehara chose to merge the Democratic Party with Koike Yuriko (age 68)’s new party, the “Party of Hope.”
Edano, who was the Democratic Party’s acting representative, was left behind. He launched the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) with Democratic Party members who did not join the merged party. In the subsequent Lower House election, Edano took a purist line to “differentiate the party from the LDP and the Party of Hope,” gaining wide support and propelling Edano to be the leader of the top opposition party.
Nikkei’s opinion poll held from June 25 to 27 showed that the CDPJ approval rate was in the single digits, at 8%. The CDPJ has not become a receptacle for people critical of the administration, showing the limits of taking a purist line.
Within the CDPJ, comments such as Edano “likes to think for himself” or “only holds discussions with a limited set of people” are heard often. Those around him advise Edano that “it is important to meet with a wide range of people, like businesspeople and members of religious organizations.”
There is a new CDPJ member who gives Edano a lot of leeway: Nakamura Kishiro (age 72), who has served 14 terms in the Lower House. Nakamura sometimes stops by Edano’s office to casually advise him.
Nakamura emphasizes that the “goal of the next Lower House election is for opposition parties to be on par with the ruling parties.” Edano says “[the goal for the CDPJ is] to become an alternative to the administration.
An Edano-supporting Diet member explains that “becoming an alternative to the administration” means gaining enough Diet seats so that voters will recognize [the CDPJ] as a political force that could institute a change of government “two elections from now.”
Twenty years after his first election [to the Diet], Edano is a 57-year-old who has served nine terms in the Lower House. Edano wishes to lead in policy-making as a member of an administration. But there are CDPJ members who continue to call for the CDPJ executive officers who were part of the DPJ administration to step down to rejuvenate the party. (Partially abridged)