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Democratic Party acting leader Hosono resigns from post

Democratic Party lawmaker Goshi Hosono speaks to reporters on his resignation from the position of party acting leader at the House of Representatives First Members' Office Building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 13, 2017. (Mainichi)

The acting leader of the Democratic Party (DP), Goshi Hosono, submitted his resignation from his position at a meeting with DP Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda in the Diet on April 13.

    Hosono cited differences in opinion between himself and other senior DP members on the Constitution as the reason for his resignation, but denied he was leaving the party.

    Hosono's decision comes shortly after fellow DP member and House of Representatives lawmaker Akihisa Nagashima asked to leave the party altogether based on the DP's choice to cooperate with the Japanese Communist Party in an electoral capacity. With DP morale taking a downturn in the buildup to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election on July 2, it seems that the more conservative members of the party are increasingly expressing their frustrations.

    After Hosono submitted his official resignation, he told a group of reporters within the Diet, "As a member of the DP leadership, I decided that it would be inappropriate to talk anymore about the Constitution, for the sake of the party."

    In addition, in a monthly magazine that went on sale April 10, Hosono presented his own draft revision to the Constitution, which included proposals such as tuition-free education. However, at a party convention in March, DP chief Renho had already expressed objections toward establishing tuition-free education through constitutional amendment. It is thought that Hosono started to think about resigning from his post around this time. "I used to think that submitting constitutional amendments worthy of the DP was an extremely important thing to do as a political party that makes proposals, but currently, the leading members of the DP are taking a passive stance toward constitutional amendments."

    With the metropolitan assembly election on the horizon, and with DP leaders breaking away in what could be described as "party defection dominos," a sense of disunity within the party that has continued since the days of the DP's predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan, still seems to be present. Some within the DP have said, "Why abandon ship now?" while others are wondering if the quitters are shifting away from the DP's leadership as they speculate that Renho might be ousted after the election on July 2, and therefore they want to cut their association now.

    Prior to Hosono's resignation, he explained his intentions to step down from his party post to his faction, but was met with opposing views. At a press conference on April 13, Renho stated, "I apologize sincerely to our supporters for displaying this disjointed situation." In addition, a member of the Diet criticized, "Hosono supported Renho during the leadership election, and is also a faction leader. To suddenly change his stance like this, in such a casual fashion, is irresponsible."

    Hosono's resignation has also raised questions about whether or not he will run in the gubernatorial election in Shizuoka Prefecture, his constituency home, scheduled for June. On April 10, Hosono met with the current prefectural governor, Heita Kawakatsu. According to Hosono, "I want Kawakatsu to put his name forward for the gubernatorial election. There is no one else."

    On the other hand, conservative-leaning Shu Watanabe, who is a former vice minister for internal affairs and communications, and also close to former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, wrote on his own blog on April 13, "I might put my own name forward for the Shizuoka gubernatorial election if for some reason Kawakatsu doesn't run for a third term."

    While the government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party are currently responding to the tense situation in North Korea, the DP is being shaken up from within.

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