The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan plans to choose its leader by voting for the first time, possibly in September, amid expectations that Yukio Edano will retain the post without a contest.

The CDP was founded by Edano in the run-up to the House of Representatives election in October 2017, amid turmoil dividing the opposition camp. He announced the establishment of the party at a news conference with no one beside him on Oct. 2 that year, partly prompted by large numbers of liberal voters posting tweets under the hashtag “Edano stand up!”

The CDP had only six members when it was registered the following day, but it became the largest opposition party after the Lower House election. It currently has some 90 Diet members, including Hirotaka Akamatsu, vice speaker of the Lower House, and Toshio Ogawa, vice president of the House of Councilors, as well as about 775 local assembly members.

At a news conference in late March, Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the CDP, said, “We at last have enough members to hold a leadership election.”

The CDP officially adopted in June rules for its leadership election to prepare for the expiration of Edano’s current three-year term in September. According to the rules, a party member wishing to run in the election needs to secure recommendations from at least 20 party lawmakers, or 20 percent of the party’s lawmakers, whichever is smaller. Voting rights are given to the CDP’s Diet members, authorized candidates for a national election, local assembly members and general members.

Edano is highly rated for the CDP’s growth, and senior party members support him. Medium-ranked and younger members agree that the CDP should be led by Edano, aiming to make him the prime minister of Japan. One of them even said, “The question is whether Mr. Edano’s prime ministership or the party’s dissolution will come first.”

But the novel coronavirus epidemic has started to shake Edano’s strong internal position. In March, for example, Shiori Yamao, a member of the Lower House, quit the CDP due to her opposition to the party’s stance on legislation authorizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency to fight the spread of COVID-19 infections. She demanded prior parliamentary approval for such an emergency.

On April 1, furthermore, some members, worried about a scarcity of policy proposals from the CDP to address the economic impact of the epidemic, urged the party to recommend that the government cut the consumption tax rate from 10 percent to 5 percent or lower.

In addition, polls by media organizations show a downward trend in the approval rating of the party.

While recognizing the shortage of policy proposals by the CDP, Edano said, “It’s more important for us to get the government to carry out the necessary measures than to call attention to ourselves.” This approach is that of the leader of “a responsible political party that will take over the reins of government in the future,” he said.

Edano’s stance appears to be widely accepted by CDP members for now.

A person close to the CDP, however, said the party is “eating away at assets from the time of establishment” without drawing a path to stand out among weak opposition parties.

“I will vote for Edano but look to get involved in personnel affairs,” a veteran lawmaker said, suggesting that he will call for changes in the CDP leadership in a bid to bolster the party’s strength.

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