A number of lawmakers appear willing to tackle the formidable task of turning around the fortunes of the long-struggling Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The main opposition party will hold a leadership election to replace Yukio Edano, who announced his resignation to take responsibility for the CDP’s poor showing in the Oct. 31 Lower House election.

On Nov. 2, the day of Edano’s announcement, Junya Ogawa, 50, a former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs, indicated he would run for party president.

The following day, Hiroshi Ogushi, 56, the CDP’s boardroom chief, also showed that he wanted the party’s top post.

Some lawmakers are hoping that CDP policy chief Kenta Izumi will take another run for party president.

Izumi, 47, was defeated by Edano in the leadership election in September 2020.

On Nov. 3, Izumi did not return to his hometown of Kyoto and instead stayed in Tokyo and communicated with his supporters.

Sumio Mabuchi, 61, a former transport minister, is also emerging as a possible candidate. He has been working with another popular opposition figure, Reiwa Shinsengumi leader Taro Yamamoto, on reducing the consumption tax rate.

Akira Nagatsuma, 61, a former health minister, is seen as another possible contender.

The election campaign will likely focus primarily on two issues—cooperation with other opposition parties and a possible generational shift in CDP leadership.

Only party members will be able to vote for the next CDP leader.

After Ogushi attended a meeting of the CDP’s Saga prefectural chapter in Saga on Nov. 3, he spoke to reporters about the party’s election, which has not yet been scheduled.

“Several lawmakers are asking me to announce my candidacy,” Ogushi said. “I am weighing this matter and listening to my colleagues’ opinions.”

Ogushi, a former bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry, has been elected six times in Lower House elections.

His first victory came in 2005 after he received the endorsement of the then Democratic Party of Japan.

After he joined a subsequent party of the DPJ, he moved to the Party of Hope. Later, he aligned himself with the CDP and supported Edano as boardroom chief.

Ogawa gave a speech on a street in Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, on Nov. 3.

“What can I do as a next-generation member from now on? I feel a great responsibility,” he said. “To pave the way toward a new era, I want to deeply think about my own role.”

Ogawa and his political activities were features in a documentary film called, “Why You Can’t Be Prime Minister.”

The film heightened Ogawa’s popularity and helped him defeat a former digital minister in a single-seat constituency in the Lower House election.

“It is not easy to find the required recommendations from 20 lawmakers to run in the party’s election,” he said. “But I cannot adopt an indecisive attitude.”


Under Edano’s leadership, the CDP cooperated with four other opposition parties to collectively support just one candidate in single-seat races in the Lower House election. The plan was to pull together all opposition votes against the candidates of the ruling coalition, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party.

The strategy overall did not pay off.

The candidates in the CDP election will likely debate on whether such cooperation should continue for the 32 single-seat districts in the 2022 Upper House election, as well as how to pick a strong leader for the national elections.

The CDP’s partnership agreement with the Japanese Communist Party is also expected to be an election issue. The CDP’s key support group, Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation), has long butted heads with the JCP.

Ogushi spoke of the opposition alliance.

“It was necessary, but it needs to be reviewed to some degree,” he said.

On a TV news program, Ogawa said, “If CDP and JCP candidates had competed against each other in more single-seat districts, the election results could have been worse.”

But Ogawa pointed to a bigger problem facing the CDP.

“The Japanese people do not see us as a party capable of taking control of the government,” he said.

Izumi also indicated the CDP needs an overhaul.

“We have to reconsider our procedures and framework,” he said.

Nagatsuma, meanwhile, gave high marks for the unified opposition front on a TV program on Nov. 2.

“We were able to have one-on-one battles (with the LDP),” he said.

Ogushi, Ogawa and Izumi were all members of the DPJ, but they did not hold Cabinet posts or senior party positions when the party was in power.

The public’s lingering negative image of those DPJ administrations is not necessarily reflected on these potential candidates for CDP leader.

Many CDP lawmakers have voiced hope that the party can renew itself through a generational shift to younger members.

But just applying a younger “face” will not be enough to regenerate the party.

It not only has to decide on its alliance with other parties and its own future course, but it also must prove to the public that it is indeed capable of running the government.

To do that would require a consensus within the CDP, and so far, all members do not appear to be on the same page.

“The conflicts within the party could intensify,” a senior CDP lawmaker said. “A young leader might not be able to unify the party.”

(This article was written by Daisuke Matsuoka and Urara Yukawa.)