A conservative lawmaker tendered his resignation from the main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday, setting off what is likely to become a wave of similar moves by others to bolt a party mired in the throes of an existential crisis.
The departure of two-term lawmaker Yoshihiro Suzuki deals yet another blow to the nascent leadership of DP President Seiji Maehara as it tries to mitigate the fallout from adultery allegations leveled last week at young party hopeful Shiori Yamao and her subsequent resignation.
Wednesday’s development further strengthens the perception that Maehara, who was elected party president on Sept. 1, faces a bumpy road ahead as his leadership scrambles to convince potential defectors to think twice about leaving.
Speaking to reporters, Suzuki attributed his resignation to simmering frustration linked to the DP’s electoral tie-up with the leftist Japanese Communist Party, a policy pursued by Maehara’s liberal predecessors, Katsuya Okada and Renho.
Being a conservative himself, Maehara had repeatedly expressed his eagerness to rethink ties with the JCP while running for the DP presidency. But the fact he has appointed Yukio Edano, his sole rival for the race who backed the policy of collaborating with the JCP, as deputy president suggests Maehara is not serious about ending the relationship, Suzuki said.
“(Maehara) said he wants to ‘reset’ ties with the JCP, but there are no signs he is actually trying to do so,” the lawmaker said, adding he doesn’t intend to quit his Diet seat at the moment.
According to Suzuki, Atsushi Oshima, secretary-general of the DP, met with him privately Tuesday and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade him to stay on.
In fact, Suzuki may not be the only one to leave the party — media reports say DP lawmakers Hirofumi Ryu, Yuichi Goto, Shuhei Kishimoto and Nobuyuki Fukushima are considering exiting, too.
Even before Suzuki’s departure, the party was hemorrhaging lawmakers, spurring speculation that it is on the brink of splitting up, or worse, disintegrating.
Most prominently, veteran conservative Goshi Hosono resigned from the party last month, voicing dismay at what he called the DP’s blind opposition to a set of Abe-championed security laws that have significantly expanded the scope of overseas operations by the Self-Defense Forces.
On Wednesday, as Suzuki’s news conference drew to a close, Hosono made a sudden appearance, declaring he wants to “cooperate as much as possible (with Suzuki) to create a party that can replace” the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Though Suzuki stopped short of confirming his position on a tie-up with Hosono, he does belong to Jiseikai, a faction headed by Hosono, as do rumored defectors Ryu and Goto.
Speculation is rife that Hosono will team up with ex-LDP lawmaker Masaru Wakasa, a protege of popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, to set up a national equivalent of her Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) party by the end of the year to take on the LDP.
The advent of such a pro-Koike party would point to an opposition realignment, posing a fresh threat to the standing of Abe in national politics. Tomin First trounced the LDP in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election in July while further marginalizing the DP.