Katsuya Okada was assured of re-election as president of the Democratic Party of Japan on Monday after no one stepped forward to challenge him.
Okada led the DPJ to huge gains in the July House of Councilors election. He has effectively secured a two-year term that will begin after his current term expires at the end of September.
The DPJ under Okada has become a dangerous competitor for the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party.
Okada told a news conference that his “greatest and only” objective is to wrest power from the ruling bloc in the next House of Representatives election.
“The most important thing is (to regain public) trust in politics,” he said, stressing he will tackle the key tasks of maintaining transparency in the party’s operation and mapping out reliable policies, including on national security.
His candidacy was filed by five DPJ members, including Yoshikatsu Nakayama, at DPJ headquarters in Tokyo shortly after 2 p.m., when election campaigning officially kicked off.
Okada’s re-election will be approved formally by party members at a convention Sept. 13, by which time he said he will select his executive team.
The five presented a list naming 25 party members from a wide range of factions nominating the 51-year-old leader. Among the 25 was former DPJ leader Naoto Kan, who was forced to step down in May to take responsibility for failing to make mandatory payments into the basic national pension program.
Okada, DPJ secretary general at the time, assumed the post after Kan’s resignation.
Also among the 25 was former DPJ Vice President Takahiro Yokomichi, a former Socialist; DPJ Vice President Hiroshi Nakai, a member of the now-defunct Liberal Party led by DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa; and Yoshikatsu Nakayama, a member of an intraparty group led by former DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama.
Okada was also backed by some junior party members.
“We have reached a consensus on the picture of Japan’s security 10 years from now,” Okada said. “The question is how we’re going to make our arguments perfectly logical (in the meantime).”
He added he will have his party debate the security issue thoroughly so it can introduce a bill — tentatively dubbed the collective security basic legislation — to the Diet early next year.
Absent from the list of those nominating Okada for the party helm were Ozawa and Hatoyama, prompting speculation that friction remains over how the party should deal with the controversial issue of Japan’s security policy.
Last month, Okada contradicted Ozawa on the issue of constitutional reform during a trip to the United States.
Ozawa has said that even under the current war-renouncing Constitution, Japan can engage in the use of force as part of United Nations peacekeeping activities.
But on his U.S. trip, Okada said the Constitution needs to be changed before Japan is allowed to use force, even for missions that are under the auspices of the U.N.
On Monday, Ozawa expressed his intention to support Okada, but said: “It’s a bit of a pity that I couldn’t hear any policy debate at such a precious opportunity as the (party’s) presidential election.”
He added that Okada must clarify the party’s position on security and other policies so they are clearly distinct from those of the LDP.
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