A day after being clobbered in Sunday’s general election, the Democratic Party of Japan said it will vote for a new party leader this weekend.
Names bandied about as possible successors to Katsuya Okada include DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa as well as former party chiefs Naoto Kan and Yukio Hatoyama, as the largest opposition party will need a strong leader to pull it together and ward off collapse after its resounding defeat.
The DPJ’s strength in the 480-seat House of Representatives dropped from a pre-election 177 to 113, as urban and unaffiliated voters — segments of the electorate that in the past tended to vote DPJ — warmed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
“We’re going to act as one under a new leader with the aim of taking the reins of government,” DPJ Diet affairs chief Yoshio Hachiro said as he left an emergency meeting of party executives Monday afternoon at DPJ headquarters in Tokyo.
“But since we are the current executives, we cannot say who the party members from the two Diet chambers” will tap as Okada’s successor, he said, adding that no specific candidate was named during the meeting.
The next party leader will be voted in on Saturday at a general meeting attended by DPJ members from both houses of the Diet, so the winner can speedily put together a new executive team by Sept. 21, when the special Diet session is expected to be convened, another party executive said.
Earlier Monday, Okada formally announced he would step down because he was unable to achieve his goal of wresting power from the LDP and New Komeito through the election.
“The forthright manner in which we promoted our policies was the right thing to do, and we will continue this approach until we get through” to voters, Okada told a news conference, saying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s single-issue focus on privatizing the postal system led to his success at the polls.
Since it was formed and won 52 seats in a general election in 1996, the DPJ had steadily increased its strength in the Lower House before being trounced Sunday.
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