Four compete to lead Japan’s CDP after election disappointment


The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan kicked off its presidential campaign on Friday, with four candidates vying to reinvigorate the country’s largest opposition party after its poor general election results last month.

The candidates for the November 30 elections are Junya Ogawa, 50, former parliamentary deputy minister of home affairs; Chinami Nishimura, 54, former state health minister; CDP policy chief Kenta Izumi, 47; and Seiji Osaka, 62, special advisor to the prime minister when the Democratic Party of Japan (PDJ) was in power.

The party recorded disappointing results in the October 31 lower house elections, dropping from 110 seats to 96. Among those who lost their district seats were veteran party leaders Kiyomi Tsujimoto and Ichiro Ozawa. Ozawa returned as a proportional representative, but Tsujimoto did not.

The scale of the defeat forced the resignation of party chairman Yukio Edano, whose leadership was criticized after the CDP’s pre-election pact with the Communist Party of Japan to support candidates from the unified districts created tensions among supporters of the CDP and failed to produce results at the polls.

Whether or not to continue cooperation with the JCP is a major issue for the next CDP leader. Although the CDP does not have formal factions like the Liberal Democratic Party, it does have informal groups of politicians who belonged to various old parties, and these groups have divergent views on many topics, including the decision to be made. Edano to cooperate with the JCP.

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Seiji Osaka at a launch event in Tokyo on Friday. Osaka is a member of the Hokkaido Lower House and a former head of party politics. | KYODO

The deal was designed to prevent a split opposition vote in district elections, but ended up turning off some voters. Broadening the party base to include more supporters and deciding whether to attempt to attract more conservative voters who dislike the JCP will be key to any new leader’s success.

The four candidates also face the task of rebuilding the party leadership ranks and giving it a new look at a time when more familiar faces have seen their position within the party shrink.

At a press conference on Friday afternoon, each explained how they would lead if elected and the issues they wanted to prioritize.

Osaka began by emphasizing his experience and the importance of dealing with a wide variety of diverse people as a leader before addressing the areas he wanted the party to reform.

“The area in Japan where we need to put the most emphasis is education and investing in people. It is a necessary investment for the present and the future, as well as in art and culture, ”said Osaka.

Osaka, the oldest candidate, is a member of the Hokkaido lower house for five terms and a former head of party politics. He stressed the need to avoid a divided opposition vote at election time, saying individual competitions for district seats were important. Osaka is affiliated with a 25-member CDP group, the party’s largest, centered around Edano and former Japanese Socialist Party lawmakers.

Kenta Izumi (center) at an event in Tokyo on Friday.  Izumi, who challenged Edano for the presidency last year, said that when it comes to future cooperation with the JCP, the number of district seats and the local situation in each district should be taken into account.  |  KYODO
Kenta Izumi (center) at an event in Tokyo on Friday. Izumi, who challenged Edano for the presidency last year, said that when it comes to future cooperation with the JCP, the number of district seats and the local situation in each district should be taken into account. | KYODO

Ogawa, for his part, criticized the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito governments of the past decade for policies that he said have increased state power to the detriment of individuals.

“I want to rebuild the liberal stance of Japanese policy on freedom, human rights and a just and egalitarian society,” Ogawa said.

Ogawa is also linked to the same party group as Osaka, although he struggled to secure the 20 supporting signatures needed to enter the race. He has finally reached that threshold and is supported by a 10-member group centered on former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Izumi, meanwhile, criticized his own party for failing to come up with policies that clearly set it apart from the ruling coalition and for making itself known among voters as a party that only opposed the PLD.

“Despite the fact that the CDP introduced many bills, we came to be seen by the public as a party made up entirely of critics of the government,” he said.

Junya Ogawa speaks in Tokyo on Friday.  Ogawa is supported by a 10-member group centered on former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.  |  KYODO
Junya Ogawa speaks in Tokyo on Friday. Ogawa is supported by a 10-member group centered on former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. | KYODO

Izumi, who challenged Edano for the presidency last year, said that when it comes to future cooperation with the JCP, the number of district seats and the local situation in each district should be taken into account. He is supported by a group of 20 former members of the People’s Democratic Party who split from the party to join the CDP last year. The DPP strongly criticized the CDP’s decision to support candidates unified with the JCP.

Nishimura, who represents a district of Niigata, highlighted his regional roots as well as his experience working for a non-governmental organization.

“I am convinced that as a leader I can combine the voices of women, local voters from outside the big cities and people involved in popular movements,” Nishimura said.

Nishimura is affiliated with a group of 15 members related to Kan. She too struggled to get the minimum 20 signatures needed to come forward, but said she wanted to come forward to put herself in a better position to help those who are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and reduce social inequalities.

Chinami Nishimura speaks Friday in Tokyo.  She is affiliated with a group of 15 members linked to former Prime Minister Naoto Kan.  |  KYODO
Chinami Nishimura speaks Friday in Tokyo. She is affiliated with a group of 15 members linked to former Prime Minister Naoto Kan. | KYODO

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