Three presidential candidates for the Democratic Party of Japan have begun touting their strategies to bring the main opposition party back to power, as the official campaign period kicks off for the DPJ's presidential election on Jan. 18.
Acting DPJ President Katsuya Okada, former Secretary General Goshi Hosono and former Heath, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma expressed negative opinions at a press conference Wednesday about merging with the Japan Innovation Party (JIP).
"[The JIP] sounds like it wants to unite with only a part of the DPJ, assuming that our party will break up," Okada said. "At this point, I cannot think of joining up with that party."
Hosono is considered to be positive about realigning the opposition parties but did not mention that view at the press conference, likely aiming to gain broader support in the party presidential race.
"There's a significant difference [between the DPJ and the JIP]," Hosono said. "It's not realistic to merge [with the JIP]."
Nagatsuma said, "Before uniting with a party that has policies totally different from ours, we have to discuss many issues within the DPJ."
The three candidates also discussed at the press conference the future direction of the party's policies, including the right of collective self-defence and economic issues. From here on out, they are expected to emphasise their stance of challenging the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The difference between lawmakers who support the three indicate what their strategies are.
"I'm the youngest [among the three candidates], so I'll stand at the forefront," Hosono said. He promoted his youth during a Wednesday night meeting of 20 people at a Tokyo hotel, including local assembly members from Tokyo and elsewhere.
The Hosono camp is targeting generational change as an issue for the upcoming election.
There is a tendency within the DPJ to categorize party members by generation. The first generation comprises people like former prime ministers Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan, who founded the party, while the second generation consists of the people like the six key members who played a significant role in the party's previous assumption of power, including Okada.
Hosono places himself in the third generation. Of the 25 lawmakers who have offered to back Hosono, there are 15 House of Representatives members who were elected for the first time in the 2000 lower house election or later. Hosono clarified his strategy of bringing freshness to the fore.
The Okada camp is sticking to a balance of supporting lawmakers. Okada presented an image of seeking party unity through a wide range of support, from former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and former Finance Minister Jun Azumi - both members of the key-six second generation - and young lawmakers elected twice, to House of Councillors member Masayuki Naoshima, who used to be a labour representative.
At a ceremony to kick off Okada's election campaign, Azumi said, "Our group is a mainstream of the DPJ."
Supported by a group affiliated with the former Japan Socialist Party, Nagatsuma upheld his liberal views. "The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not seem to be reflecting on the war 70 years ago and acting accordingly. Extremely dangerous moves are gathering pace," Nagatsuma said at a press conference on Wednesday.
If no candidate wins a majority in the election, the top two candidates will face a runoff.