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Goshi Hosono Resigns as Democratic Party Executive

SNA (Tokyo) — Another prominent Democratic Party conservative offered a resignation today, and defections are ongoing among Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly members. In the near term, these are heavy blows to the party leadership of President Renho and Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda which might bring them down in the late summer months. But if they survive, it could play out as a political blessing in disguise.

Today’s big resignation was that of Acting President Goshi Hosono. He is not resigning from the party, as Akihisa Nagashima recently did, but only giving up his executive post.

On Monday, Hosono published in the prominent magazine Chuo Koron his personal proposals for revisions to the national Constitution. Something about the manner in which the party executives reacted to his revision proposals seems to have angered Hosono. They communicated to him that they don’t believe constitutional revision is needed at this time. Hosono fumed, “My way of thinking about the Constitution is different.”

If we take all this at face value, it’s difficult to understand why Hosono should be so surprised at Renho and Noda’s stance. While Hosono may be deeply attached to his own ideas, it’s difficult not to agree with Noda’s comment to reporters that “we have to obey the rules laid down by the party as a whole.”

Goshi Hosono is notably one of the more conservative lawmakers in the party, not necessarily representative of the median opinion on policy. He was, however, a crucial early backer of Renho’s leadership bid last year, and he may have felt that she owed him more deference as a result.

There was another resignation earlier in the day, which is that a fifth member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly resigned from the Democratic Party in yet another defection to Governor Yuriko Koike. She appears set to decisively stomp the leading national opposition party in the July elections.

Akihisa Nagashima’s resignation less than a week ago on the 7th also had some follow-ons. In the end, Renho and Noda chose not to accept his resignation and expelled him from the party instead. As he was elected on the party list in the last general elections (having failed to secure his district seat by a narrow margin), they demanded that he resign from the Diet altogether and return his seat to the party. Nagashima did not do so.

In sum, the leadership team of Renho and Noda are taking some very heavy hits at the moment. Prominent lawmakers are ditching them, and the July elections in Tokyo are almost guaranteed to be a total humiliation. There will be calls by late summer for Renho to resign as party leader, and she may be forced to succumb.

On the other hand, if Renho does survive the next few months, there is a distinct silver lining. All of the prominent party members resigning at the moment come from the minority conservative wing. They are people who offer nothing to set the Democratic Party apart from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and they obstruct cooperation with the smaller, progressive parties.

In other words, the decline of the Democratic Party conservatives is practically a precondition for the leading opposition party to gain some internal coherence. In an inelegant way, that process may now be occurring.