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DP’s No. 2 Noda steps down to take responsibility for Tokyo election drubbing

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Democratic Party heavyweight Yoshihiko Noda announced Tuesday he will step down from the main opposition party’s No. 2 post to take responsibility for its crushing defeat in Tokyo’s election earlier this month.

Noda’s resignation as the party’s secretary-general represents the centerpiece of a leadership shake-up engineered by its leader, Renho, as she seeks to revive the chronically struggling party that has fallen short of serving as a viable alternative to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“I tendered my resignation to the party president as I think I should take heavy responsibility as secretary-general” for failing to steer the party properly, Noda told reporters at the DP’s headquarters.

“While the approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet have been falling, we have not realized a corresponding rise in support for our party,” Noda said.

Renho said the party needs to take action.

“We need to do something to strengthen our power,” Renho told a gathering of DP lawmakers Tuesday. “I ask for your cooperation so we can turn our party into an organization capable of winning,” she said.

To stress her commitment to the party, Renho, an Upper House lawmaker, also said she will risk her political future by declaring her candidacy for a Lower House seat in the event of a new nationwide election, so she can represent the more powerful chamber of the national Diet.

She said she will run in a single-seat constituency in Tokyo, but didn’t specify which one.

Tuesday’s decision to oust Noda, a strong ally of Renho, is a result of weeks-long hearings the party leadership conducted with rank-and-file DP lawmakers to reflect on the dismal showing in the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election.

A flurry of criticism was reportedly directed at the leadership during the closed-door hearings, with many calling for a complete reshuffle.

Some DP lawmakers also took issue with Renho’s dual nationality controversy, which they argued had played a major part in causing the election defeat.

To quell their frustration, Renho, who was born to a Japanese mother and a Taiwanese father, resorted last week to the highly unusual step of disclosing parts of her koseki (family registry) to prove that she had renounced her foreign citizenship.

The leadership reshuffle is a gamble for the DP as it hopes to tap into a recent surge in public hostility toward the LDP, which has been hit hard by a string of ministerial gaffes and allegations of cronyism leveled at Abe himself. On Sunday, opposition-backed candidate Kazuko Kori won a mayoral election in Sendai, a victory widely seen as further evidence that the tide has turned against Abe.