Photo/IllutrationSeiji Maehara stands between former Democratic Party leader Renho and Yukio Edano, his opponent in the party presidential election held on Sept. 1. (Ryo Ikeda)

Seiji Maehara easily won the election for president of the Democratic Party on Sept. 1, but he now faces the difficult task of convincing voters that the main opposition party is fit to govern the nation.

Maehara, 55, a former foreign minister, trounced the only other candidate, Yukio Edano, 53, to return to the helm of the party.

The election was open to party lawmakers, those planning to run on the Democratic Party ticket in a future national election, local assembly members and ordinary party members. The value of individual votes was weighted according to a points system.

Maehara emerged with 502 points, compared with 332 points for Edano, who was chief Cabinet secretary when the then Democratic Party of Japan was in control of government.

In his final speech before voting by lawmakers, Maehara emphasized that the party must give voters a reason to dump the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“It is the LDP that created a cold society in which everyone has to take responsibility for the status they find themselves in,” Maehara said at a hotel in Tokyo. “We have the historic responsibility of proposing a new alternative.”

He added, “I do not rule out cooperating with other political forces, and I want you to allow me to stand as the leader who fulfills the mission of creating a new society.”

Maehara’s victory likely means the Democratic Party will review its electoral strategy. He has said he wants to change the past strategy of cooperating with the Japanese Communist Party to back the same candidate against one fielded by the ruling coalition.

He also said he was open to a major reorganization of the opposition parties to reduce their number.

The election was held to replace Renho, the first woman to lead the Democratic Party.

She had cooperated with the JCP in elections and attacked ruling coalition members in the Diet. But she failed to significantly increase the popularity of the party, even when the support rates for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were tumbling.

Renho resigned to take responsibility for her party’s miserable showing in the July Tokyo metropolitan assembly election.

Both Maehara and Edano called for increasing social security spending, but they took opposing views on the scheduled increase in October 2019 of the consumption tax rate from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Maehara favors going ahead with the tax hike and has long expressed support for revising the pacifist Constitution.

In his last speech, Edano said, “We must change the course of the political world by gaining as many Diet seats as possible for the sake of the public that wants us to stop, at all costs, a government that has gone out of control.”