National / Politics

Ex-minister Hosono to leave opposition Democratic Party

Kyodo, Staff Report

Former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Friday he will leave the struggling Democratic Party to form a new group, the latest setback for the main opposition party since the abrupt resignation of its leader last week.

“I will leave the party and rise with resolve to set up a new party that can hold power,” Hosono, 45, told reporters after informing members of his intraparty group about his departure.

The veteran House of Representatives politician also said he will take the lead in Japan’s political realignment and form a new alternative to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Hosono remained vague about the possibility of his envisioned party seeking an alliance with independents close to popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

“I will explore various possibilities regarding who will back my determination” to establish a party that can lead Japan, he said.

Some other members of the DP are rumored to be leaving with Hosono, according to other members of the party.

Hosono said he had been thinking about leaving for two years or so because he felt uncomfortable with the DP’s policy on the security laws and amending the Constitution.

Outgoing DP leader Renho said last week she would step down over the party’s poor performance in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election last month. She became leader last September.

Hosono, who was secretary-general of the party’s predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan, and environment minister for the DPJ, resigned as deputy president of the DP in April, citing policy differences with Renho’s leadership.

The opposition party will hold its leadership election on Sept. 1, with official campaigning starting on Aug. 21. Two veteran lawmakers — Seiji Maehara and Yukio Edano — are expected to join the race.

Hosono said he announced his intention Friday to leave the party as he did not want to have his move affect the upcoming party race.

“If I leave the party during the official campaigning (for the party race), it would affect the Democratic Party — which I belong to and have great affection for,” Hosono said.

Hosono, who was elected from the No. 5 district of Shizuoka Prefecture, said he will formally announce his departure from the party after he discusses the matter with supporters in his constituency.

Despite a recent plunge in the approval rating of Abe’s Cabinet, public support for the Democratic Party remains low.

In the Tokyo election, the party saw its number of seats fall from seven to a record-low of five. While Abe’s LDP suffered a historic defeat in the race as well, Koike’s fledgling local party Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) and its allies won an overall majority in the 127-seat metropolitan assembly.

Hosono handled post-disaster issues following the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as a special aide to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and was later promoted to minister in charge of the worst nuclear accident after Chernobyl.

Hosono was first elected to the Lower House in 2000 and has been re-elected five times.