The Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday formally endorsed new executives and a “shadow Cabinet” under newly elected leader Seiji Maehara, letting many junior members and those in the party’s middle ranks assume key posts.
The launch of the new party leadership and shadow Cabinet follow Saturday’s election of Maehara, 43, as the new DPJ chief. Maehara beat former party leader Naoto Kan, 58, by just two votes in a race aimed at giving a shot in the arm to the party, still reeling from its miserable showing in the Sept. 11 general election.
Pledging to place “the right person in the right place” to revamp the largest opposition party, Maehara picked conservative former party leader Yukio Hatoyama, 58, as his secretary general.
The move fueled speculation the DPJ may move further toward amending the Constitution, with both Maehara and Hatoyama being ardent supporters of revising the war-renouncing Article 9 in a way that would allow the military to play more active roles overseas together with Japan’s allies.
Dovish party members, including those from the former Social Democratic Party of Japan, oppose Maehara’s views and take a cautious stance on revising Article 9. Observers say internal divisions over amending the Constitution could further weaken the party.
Political analysts expressed concern that a DPJ led by the Maehara-Hatoyama team may lean toward the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on issues concerning security and the amendment of Article 9 and effectively trigger the party’s collapse.
“The DPJ made its first mistake in electing Maehara as its new leader and its second mistake in choosing Hatoyama as its secretary general,” critic Minoru Morita said, arguing that both seem warm toward Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform drive as well as revising the pacifist article.
At a time when many voters and DPJ supporters expect the main opposition force to act as a bulwark against the LDP, Maehara may actually become antagonistic toward government and public worker unions, which helped get many DPJ members elected in the Sept. 11 poll, and party members who oppose revising Article 9, he added.
“The Maehara-led DPJ should be welcomed by the LDP, since there is much in common between his policies and those of the LDP,” said Jin Igarashi, a political science professor at Hosei University.
Maehara and the DPJ leaders must now strive to clarify the differences between the two parties.
On such key issues as fiscal reconsolidation and postal privatization, Igarashi said the DPJ needs to come up with counterproposals to prevent the government from slapping heavy taxes on those in the low-to-medium income bracket and depriving the people of postal financial services.
Other members of the new leadership who were endorsed Tuesday include Koichiro Genba, 41, as deputy secretary general; Takeaki Matsumoto, 46, as policy affairs chief; Yoshihiko Noda, 48, as Diet affairs chief; and Jun Azumi, 43, as election headquarters chairman.
Kan rejected Maehara’s offer to assume the post of Diet affairs chief, reportedly because he wants to distance himself from responsible posts for some time, while Maehara is hoping to get DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, 63, to become deputy party head.
Former policy affairs chief Yoshito Sengoku, 59, became the shadow Cabinet minister in charge of health, labor and welfare, while Kazuhiro Haraguchi, 46, became the shadow posts minister.
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