DPJ mulls shift to center for election

Noda, however, adamant about keeping party conservative


The Democratic Party of Japan may adopt a centrist platform for the next general election in an effort to combat conservative opposition rivals.

“We will preserve a great postwar tradition and bring together moderate forces,” DPJ Deputy Secretary General Jun Azumi told a group of Japanese Trade Union Federation (Rengo) officials at a recent meeting, stressing the party’s middle-of-the-road stance.

Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe “is drifting ever more to the right compared with previous LDP presidents,” Azumi warned during the meeting Saturday in Sapporo. Rengo, the country’s biggest labor organization, is a mainstay supporter of the DPJ.

Another rightwinger, Shintaro Ishihara, who recently resigned as Tokyo governor to form a new national party in time for the next Lower House election, “is even saying Japan should abandon its Constitution,” Azumi stressed.

His remarks are in line with an emerging initiative within the DPJ to differentiate the party from the increasingly rightwing rhetoric of Abe and Ishihara. The DPJ stands among “liberal centrists and moderate conservatives,” Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said earlier.

At a recent meeting, DPJ policy chief Goshi Hosono called on the party’s policymakers to view Okada’s remarks as the pillar of a new platform for the next national vote. The DPJ plans to finish outlining its new campaign pledges by month’s end.

By strongly positioning itself against the rightwing opposition parties, the DPJ could deflect criticism that it is breaking the campaign pledges it made in the 2009 election when it seized power from the long-ruling LDP.

But this approach appears to already be faltering, with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda himself voicing his reluctance to a middle-of-the-road policy platform for the next election, sources said.

“I’m a conservative, and I reject a centrist approach,” Noda reportedly said Oct. 30 after being briefed on the idea by Azumi and Hosono, according to the sources.

For instance, Noda takes a positive view on a proposed rethink of the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 to examine whether its current interpretation bans the right to exercise collective self-defense.

Hawkish national policy minister Seiji Maehara has also expressed skepticism about boasting a centrist platform for the next Lower House election, arguing, “It’s not clear what ‘centrist’ actually stands for.”

Matsuzawa to run


Former Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa on Thursday announced his bid to run in the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election to replace Shintaro Ishihara.

Matsuzawa served two four-year terms as Kanagawa governor after he was elected in 2003. He is also a former member of the Lower House.