DPJ’s Hosono shoots down talk of leadership change

by Alex Martin

Despite the Democratic Party of Japan’s setback in the July 11 Upper House election, DPJ Deputy Secretary General Goshi Hosono defended the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday.

Speaking at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hosono said that while Kan’s remarks on a possible consumption tax hike were considered one of the primary reasons for the DPJ’s defeat, it was undesirable for the ruling party to replace its head frequently, as was the case in past administrations led by its main rival, the Liberal Democratic Party.

“If anyone is asked to take responsibility for the results, it should be the people, including myself, who were in power at the time,” Hosono said.

“But I believe there was a common understanding within the DPJ that we did not want to repeat the errors of past administrations led by the LDP,” where calls for a leadership change rose whenever an election took place, he said.

Hosono also said July and August are important months, when the nation’s budget for the next fiscal year is formulated, thus it would be unwise to create a political vacuum.

The DPJ suffered a setback of 10 seats in the recent election, losing the Upper House majority it held with its coalition partner, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party).

Despite calls for his resignation from both within and outside the party, Kan has remained at his post, and rejected the idea of reshuffling the party leadership or his Cabinet until the September DPJ presidential race, when he aims to be re-elected as party head.

And while rumors have surfaced that DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa may run against Kan in September, Hosono, who has worked under Ozawa in the past as his right-hand man, refrained from voicing support for either politician.

“The criteria by which people cast their votes should not be based on the idea of whether they support Ozawa or not — what’s more important is what kind of politician, vision the person has,” Hosono said.

The 38-year-old lawmaker, however, did say that both Ozawa and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama have taken sufficient responsibility for their money scandals by stepping down.

Facing a divided Diet, Hosono stressed that the DPJ must be cautious and flexible, willing to compromise or amend bills it presents to the opposition in order to garner other parties’ cooperation.

“This divided Diet is a crisis for politics, but there is another way to look at it. Politicians will be forced to have meaningful debates — true compromises and solutions will be required,” he said.

However, Hosono said he believed the government should also move forward and begin serious debate on tax reform, but only after taking note of the election results and hearing the arguments of Your Party, which won 10 seats in the July 11 poll.