National / Politics

Deputy Okada close to running for DPJ president

Kyodo, Staff Report

Katsuya Okada, deputy leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, is considering running in the party’s Jan. 18 leadership race to replace outgoing President Banri Kaieda.

Former Secretary-General Goshi Hosono has already thrown his hat into the ring.

The next leader of the largest opposition party will have to jump-start the rebuilding process after the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition retained its two-thirds supermajority in the Dec. 14 House of Representatives election and took Kaieda’s Diet seat along the way, forcing him to resign.

“A heavy responsibility (lies on the shoulders of the new leader) to revive the party and make it possible to achieve a change in power. I’m thinking whether or not I should take on that responsibility,” Okada said Saturday at a news conference in Tsu, Mie Prefecture.

On Friday, Hosono announced his intention to run, and media reports say former leader Seiji Maehara may also join the race.

Maehara reportedly said that he will make his intentions clear by this Friday.

One of the key issues will likely be whether to promote merger talks with the other opposition parties, in particular Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), co-headed by outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto

Maehara and Hosono are believed to be willing to start merger talks with Ishin no To, although Hosono has publicly said such issues should not be the focus of the candidates’ debates.

“(The potential) realignment of the opposition parties is not an issue. How we (the DPJ) will rebuild is the issue,” Hosono told a news conference Friday.

Policy expert Okada meanwhile appeared reluctant to promote talk of an Ishin merger, reportedly telling reporters in Tsu on Saturday that “there are some (policy) differences between Ishin no To and the DPJ. (A merger) is not an easy task.”

Many DPJ lawmakers have depended heavily on labor unions to organize their election campaigns. These lawmakers are thought likely to oppose a merger with Ishin no To, which advocates more right-leaning policies and more drastic streamlining of government entities than does the DPJ.

Ishin no To has also attacked the DPJ’s apparent dependency on labor unions.

In addition to serving as DPJ president, Okada was foreign minister from 2009 to 2010 and deputy prime minister in 2012 in the DPJ-led government, which has only come to power once.

He has been dubbed as a “policy fundamentalist” due to his extensive knowledge of policy affairs, as well as his hard-edged and at times inflexible stance toward policy issues.

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