National / Politics

Renho steps forward in bid to lead DP ahead of Sept. 15 vote

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Democratic Party deputy leader Renho announced Friday she will run for the position of party president on Sept. 15, vowing to reform the nation’s largest opposition force into a credible alternative.

Speaking at a news conference, Renho, who is among the nation’s most high-profile female politicians, said the party should be able not only to criticize the government but also to propose alternative policies.

“This may be a mere presidential election of one party . . . but I’m determined to make this the starting point (for voters) to change the government,” said Renho, 48.

“We do have alternative proposals, but unfortunately, they have not been well understood by the people.”

Renho, a Japanese citizen who goes only by her first name, also said she was against revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

“I will definitely protect Article 9. This is also my creed,” she said.

Last week, Democratic Party chief Katsuya Okada announced he will not run in the leadership race, saying it needed a fresh face. His decision follows DP’s loss of 11 seats in the July 10 Upper House election.

During the news conference Friday, Renho boasted of her communication skills, which she hopes will serve to better connect her with voters.

A competent debater in the Diet and well known for her speech delivery, Renho worked as a model and a newscaster before being elected to the Upper House in 2004. Her real name is Renho Murata, and her father is Taiwanese.

“I have judged that I can change the DP into a party that can propose alternatives,” Renho said.

Asked whether she would maintain the current cooperation with three other opposition forces, including the Japanese Communist Party, Renho said only that she would never aim to form a government with parties whose platforms were vastly different from those of the DP, apparently alluding to the JCP.

But the DP should maintain the framework of its election cooperation with those opposition parties in the next Lower House poll, she said.

In the July 10 election, the JCP did not field candidates in many seats so that DP-backed candidates had a better chance of beating the ruling camp. This closer cooperation with the JCP has drawn criticism from conservative DP lawmakers, who argue the party should not deepen relations with their communist counterparts.

Renho was re-elected in the Upper House poll, winning around 1.2 million votes, the largest number among 31 candidates who ran for the Tokyo constituency.