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Democratic Party chief Okada won’t seek re-election

Kyodo

Democratic Party chief Katsuya Okada said Saturday he will not run in his organization’s leadership race in September, saying the main opposition party needs a fresh face if it wants to take on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

“I have a sense of achievement. Although we were defeated in the Upper House election, we were able to bear fruit,” Okada told a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo, referring to the election tieup with other opposition parties as well as the merger with Ishin no To in March.

“We need to take a break and put on a fresh face,” Okada said. “That’s what’s best for the party and for gaining the political momentum needed to knock the government from power.”

After the party lost seats in the Upper House election earlier this month, some of its members called on Okada to step down to take responsibility for failing to prevent the forces in favor of constitutional revision from winning a crucial two-thirds majority in the chamber.

The election saw the Democratic Party’s strength in the 242-member upper chamber decline to 49 seats from 60.

In an online newsletter earlier this month, DP lawmaker Teruhiko Mashiko urged Okada to resign as president “as soon as possible” and said he was ready to field someone else if Okada seeks re-election.

A fledgling DPJ, renamed the DP after merging with a smaller party in March, finally ousted the conservative Liberal Democratic Party from power in the 2009 House of Representatives election on a mantra of “change.” But the rookie DPJ government was in turn toppled by the LDP in the 2012 Lower House election.

During the DPJ’s first stint in power, Okada served as foreign minister and then deputy prime minister. He was elected president in January 2015.

Official campaigning for the Democratic Party’s leadership race, to be held when Okada’s term expires, is expected to kick off on Sept. 2, with voting expected on Sept. 15, according to the party.

Renho, its deputy president who goes only by one name, former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono and former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara are expected to run, party sources said.