Japan's opposition party chief resigns after 10 months

Ms Renho's resignation comes two days after her second-in- command Yoshihiko Noda quit.
Ms Renho's resignation comes two days after her second-in- command Yoshihiko Noda quit.

TOKYO • The chief of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), Ms Renho, resigned yesterday after only 10 months into the job, as the party's support ratings remain rooted in the single digits.

As leader, she would have been the de facto pick as prime minister if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is toppled from power in the next Lower House election, due by December next year.

Ms Renho, who goes by one name, is an Upper House lawmaker, but she said only on Tuesday that she intends to contest the Lower House poll.

Yesterday, she said she realised her shortcomings after thinking about what needed to be done to "urge the public to think of us as a party they can trust".

Her resignation came just two days after her second-in-command Yoshihiko Noda quit.

The DP, in its former incarnation, was in power from 2009 to 2012, coinciding with the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

But it lost the public's trust in its opaque handling of the crisis and other issues, such as its inability to pull the economy out of its slump.

Even as the LDP's approval ratings plunged of late to under 30 per cent in some polls on the back of two favouritism scandals that implicated Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a string of gaffes, the DP has still failed to capitalise on it.

At the recent Tokyo assembly poll, only five DP lawmakers were elected - down from seven - in its worst showing, even as the LDP managed to win only 23 seats, down from its initial 57.

Ms Renho was named DP leader as the party sought to jazz up its image by capitalising on the telegenic former news anchor.

But the daughter of a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother came under fire after being found to be holding dual citizenship last October. She released records last week to prove she has since renounced her Taiwanese citizenship.

Toyo University political scientist Katsuyuki Yakushiji said the DP has not regained support due to its vague policies and lack of a strong leader. The absence of a credible national opposition, he added, means Mr Abe's main challengers for the prime minister post will come from within the LDP and not without.

Mr Abe is trying to win the support of other LDP factions.

Last week, he urged Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to stay on, as questions swirled over whether he would launch a bid to replace Mr Abe as party chief.

Sophia University political scientist Koichi Nakano said: "The fact the DP now has to look for new leaders will give the LDP some breathing space to deal with the problems they are facing themselves."

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2017, with the headline 'Japan's opposition party chief resigns after 10 months'. Print Edition | Subscribe