Democratic Party of Japan Vice President Katsuya Okada and DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama declared Wednesday they will enter the race to replace President Ichiro Ozawa, who announced his resignation earlier in the week under a cloud of scandal.
The election Saturday is likely to be a one-on-one battle. Both have led the party before, but if the DPJ wins the next Lower House election as it was favored to earlier this year, the president would likely become prime minister.
“I plan on declaring my candidacy for the presidential election” on Thursday, Okada said, adding that he is confident he can lead the DPJ to victory and finally knock the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc out of power.
“There’s no more time to stall. We need to oust the current government, not only for the DPJ, but for Japan,” Okada said.
The Lower House election must be held by fall.
Later the same day, Hatoyama told reporters that he, too, will run for the presidency to promote policy debates to get voters behind the DPJ.
“I’d like to show how this nation should be through debates,” Hatoyama said.
Because the voting will be limited to Diet members, Okada will likely face a difficult road. Hatoyama reportedly has the backing of Ozawa and his followers, who are trying to retain influence in the party despite the resignation of their embattled leader.
Okada meanwhile is garnering support from DPJ members who have maintained their distance from Ozawa and his strong but somewhat dictatorial leadership style.
The election could boil down as a power struggle between pro-Ozawa and anti-Ozawa lawmakers.
Okada dismissed such talk as media speculation and said he has the support of several party members, including some close to Ozawa. He said it is necessary to hold a “good” election.
“The election cannot be about pro-Ozawa or anti-Ozawa,” Okada said.
If Hatoyama becomes the president, the move might be criticized as an attempt to avoid change despite Ozawa’s resignation.
Meanwhile, some have criticized Okada for wanting to raise the consumption tax, a position counter to traditional DPJ policy.