Renho, a front-runner in the Democratic Party’s upcoming leadership election, vowed Tuesday to rebuild the biggest opposition force’s flagging popularity and prove to voters it is capable of more than just picking holes in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies.
If she wins the Sept. 15 election, Renho, 48, would be the latest in a series of women elevated to leadership positions in Japan’s male-dominated world of politics, following Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and newly appointed Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.
Expectations are also high that her leadership would spruce up the Democratic Party’s tattered image.
The DP has been grappling with lingering public disenchantment as its predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan, failed to carry out its campaign promises when it held power from 2009 to 2012.
“The DP has a diverse range of members and policies, but unfortunately one thing that it lacks is the people’s trust,” Renho, who goes only by one name and is half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese, told a packed news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
“People think all we do is criticize,” she said. “But I would like to say clearly that this is wrong.”
Renho, dressed in her signature white suit, kept the reporters engaged with off-the-cuff wisecracks and held frank exchanges with them.
Her humor and outspokenness contrast sharply with the gravity of Katsuya Okada, the DP’s current leader, and Renho readily pointed out this difference to emphasize her ability to bring about a “drastic change in the image of my party.”
“I do love Mr. Okada. However, being together for a year and half, I must say he is a very boring man,” she said, eliciting a burst of laughter. “It’s important for people to be unique. I believe I have that quality.”
Renho currently serves as a deputy leader of the party.
She attributed the DP’s lackluster support to the widely held notion that it is only capable of finding fault with Abe’s policies. However, she said she can present viable counter-policies that could supersede the money-pumping Abenomics program.
“I will advocate a shift to greater investment in people,” and this will be possible by cutting the current public works budget under Abe and undertaking drastic tax reforms, she said.
Specifically, she vowed to increase annual spending on child-rearing, currently about 1 percent of Japan’s GDP, to at least 2 percent, with a view to establishing a national scholarship program, easing child poverty and boosting pay for nursery teachers. “This is the way to improve the county and build a better future,” she said.
At the same time, however, Renho was less eloquent regarding issues involving non-Japanese. Asked if she thinks Japan should adopt a more open immigration policy to cope with its impending depopulation, Renho said a deep national discussion on the matter should be held first. As for whether foreign residents should have the right to vote, she said a debate over whether to lower the minimum age for running for office should come first.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.