Osaka – Yukio Edano was on Thursday elected the inaugural president of Japan’s largest opposition party, the newly expanded Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, amid talk among some ruling party members of a possible snap general election, perhaps as early as next month.
Edano, 56, received 107 of the votes cast by the 149 Diet members who comprise the new party. Challenger Kenta Izumi, 46, who had been the policy chief of the Democratic Party for the People, garnered 42 votes.
There had also been a debate over whether to keep the CDP name for the new party, as Edano wanted, or call it the Democratic Party of Japan, as many members from the Democratic Party for the People preferred. In the end, 94 of the 149 lawmakers voted to continue to be called the CDP.
The new center-left CDP consists mainly of 88 members from the old CDP, which Edano also headed, and 40 members from the Democratic Party of the People. It also includes a dozen members previously unaffiliated with a major political party, as well as a small group headed by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Noda served in the post from 2011 to 2012, during the reign of the Democratic Party of Japan, and was replaced by Shinzo Abe after the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December 2012.
“The battle has truly just begun,” Edano said in his acceptance speech.
He once again called on the ruling coalition to hold an extraordinary Diet session this autumn, citing the need for discussion on coronavirus-related bills.
“If they avoid a full-fledged debate in the Diet, and call a snap election, then we’ll debate in front of the people,” Edano said.
Edano served as chief Cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Naoto Kan when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. Kan served as prime minister from June 2010 to September 2011. Edano later served briefly as Noda’s trade and economy minister. His portfolio also included a Cabinet-level post that dealt with compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. He founded the CDP in 2017.
Attention now turns to whether the new CDP will form alliances with other parties, including the remaining members of the DPP, its leader Yuichiro Tamaki and veteran politicians like former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. Edano said he wanted to work with DPP lawmakers who opted not to join the new party in the Diet. The extent to which the parties will cooperate at election time, especially in single-seat districts, remains to be seen.
The DPP will be officially dissolved on Friday. A new party with DPP members is scheduled to launch on Sept. 15, the same day the new CDP will officially launch.
A Kyodo News poll has shown that only 15.7 percent of voters are planning to cast their proportional ballots in the next Lower House election for the new CDP. By comparison, 48.1 percent said they would vote for an LDP candidate in a sign that Edano has his work cut out in his bid to convince the public the new CDP is a viable alternative to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito coalition.
Policy differences between the CDP and DPP remain. While the CDP wants to bring nuclear power generation to an end, the DPP, whose members include those with the backing of a major union of utility workers, is more cautious.
The two parties also differ over the question of constitutional revision. The CDP has opposed Abe’s efforts while some DPP members who remained with Tamaki, like Maehara, have views more in line with Abe’s proposals.
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