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Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Groups

How the party is organized impacts its decision-making process and the assignment of key positions within the government and Diet. Post-election maneuvering within the party, and differing loyalties to party leadership, also impact how the party and a DPJ-led government would be run. Until 2008 the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), at that time Japan's largest opposition party and controller of the Diet's Upper House, had only one party grouping that was considered effective and influential: DPJ head Ichiro Ozawa's inner circle. In 2008, however, other DPJ groups, notably those opposed to Ozawa, became more united and active. With the DPJ presidential election scheduled to be held in September 2008, and the possibility of broad political realignment in the offing, how the DPJ's groups maneuver and interact would have a significant impact on Japan's political future.

By mid-2009 the DPJ had eight major groups and one quasi-group, and they had ideological orientations ranging from liberal to conservative. The majority, including the Hatoyama, Ozawa, Maehara, Noda, Kawabata, and Hata groups, were conservative. They supported the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and, in general, free market economics and competition. The other two, the Kan and Yokomichi groups, were liberal and progressive. They support, but were more critical of, the U.S.-Japan Alliance and focused on social welfare and equality. The one quasi-group supported DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada, but refrained from group-centered activities.

Members affiliate themselves with particular groups based on their policy ideas, personal connections, individual beliefs, and favors received from group leaders during previous elections. Some members belong to multiple groups and refrain from clarifying their policy positions. DPJ groups and the LDP factions differ greatly in purpose and orientation. The LDP factions' power traditionally was based on the ability to provide financial support and secure Cabinet and party posts for faction members, thereby guaranteeing factional loyalty. Although the "money game" is less important following changes in Japan's electoral system and in the Political Funding Control Law, LDP factions still support their members financially and continue to use their influence whenever possible to secure appointments in the government and party. DPJ groups, on the other hand, are more focused on policy and lack the enticement of money or posts, though that will likely change under a DPJ government.

The Hatoyama Group DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama's "Seiken Kotai wo Jitsugen suru Kai" (Group to Realize Change of Government) expanded after the 2007 Upper House election to 46 members [prior to the August 2009 election, which greatly enlarged the Party's membership in the lower house], 30 of whom are active. Hatoyama's three closest advisors are Reps. Hirofumi Hirano, Sakihito Ozawa, and Yorihisa Matsuno. Hirano, especially, is known as the go-between for Hatoyama and other DPJ members. Hatoyama attracts followers with his commitment to strengthening Japanese democracy, and group meetings have been dubbed the "Hatoyama Salon" because of the wealth and political pedigree of the "rich kids" who attend them.

A self-described liberal, Hatoyama is in fact conservative on foreign and security policy. He has privately advocated constitutional revision to allow Japan more responsibility for its own security; he maintains a tough stance against the DPRK; and he once argued that Japan should be armed with nuclear weapons. Since becoming the DPJ party president, Hatoyama moderated his hawkish views to maintain unity within the party and with the Socialists, but he continued to favor a more active Japanese role within a "more balanced" U.S.-Japan alliance.

Although Hatoyama distanced himself from Ozawa after the latter's failed attempt to create a grand coalition with the LDP, subsequently Hatoyama learned to use Ozawa's unparalleled skill in election strategy. By appointing Ozawa as the Acting DPJ Vice President for election strategy and Okada, who had closer relationships with anti-Ozawa groups, as the party's Secretary General, Hatoyama tried to mediate between the two sides and keep them unified before the 2009 election.

The Ozawa Group Acting DPJ Vice President Ichiro Ozawa led the largest groups of roughly 50 members [prior to the August 2009 election], 30 of whom were close-knit and active while 20 also belonged to other groups. It included former LDP members and the so called "Isshinkai" (Newly Elected Group), a group of young politicians whom Ozawa helped get elected. The members closest to Ozawa are Hirohisa Fuji, who retired from the Diet, and Kenji Yamaoka. Other senior members included Hiroshi Nakai, who was known for his ultra-nationalistic views. The group also contained other right wing groups, such as the DPJ's "Ianfu Mondai to Nanking Jiken no Shinjitsu wo Kenshousuru Kai" (Group to Study the Comfort Women Issue and the Truth about the Nanking Incident), and the "Minna de Yasukuni Jinja ni Sanpaisuru Kokkaigiin no Kai" (Diet Group to Visit the Yasukuni Shrine). Members of the anti-Ozawa Maehara and Noda groups expected Ozawa to try to expand his group after the 2009 election. An intra-party leadership tug-of-war after the election could weaken party unity, and that the DPJ Secretary General might play an essential role in stabilizing a DPJ administration.

Ichiro Ozawa was said by some to be China's designated friend in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The "shadow shogun" , who has advocated closer relations with China and a distancing from the US. Ozawa has informed his 'friends in the U.S. government' that China is a nation with an extremely long history, through which its people have been able to accumulate wisdom on a wide range of topics. He has said he was fortunate to be close to many in the PRC leadership, and suggested that because of Japan's longer association with China and the resulting familiarity, Japan should be playing a greater role in China's relations with the rest of the world. However, the reality is that Japan is not yet able to fully play such a role, despite his desire that it do exactly that. Ozawa has expressed concerns about the growing influence of the Chinese military in Chinese domestic politics, and said the United States and Japan needed to deal with China from a position of strength.

The main power broker in the DPJ, in the Diet his disciplined faction controlled almost half of the DPJ votes. Ozawa was widely credited with masterminding the DPJ's historic victory in 2009 over Japan's long-ruling conservative party. Former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was his political mentor as well as boss. Ozawa was acquitted in April 2012 on charges of violating fund raising laws, setting up a possible showdown in the country's ruling party. The Tokyo District Court said there was no evidence that Ozawa knowingly falsified reports to hide a $5 million loan he made to his political fund-raising body to facilitate a land deal in 2004. The scandal had forced Ozawa to step down as head of the DPJ.

The Kan Group The 35 confirmed members [prior to the August 2009 election] of Acting DPJ President Naoto Kan's "Kuni no Katachi Kenkyuu Kai" (Shape of the Nation Study Group) focus on grassroots political activities and the needs of the general public. Like Hatoyama, Kan tried to distance himself from Ozawa after Ozawa's botched attempt to form a grand coalition with the LDP. Kan also has certain differences with Ozawa over policies and party management style, and on a personal level the two do not necessarily get along. Now that Hatoyama heads the party and the DPJ appears well positioned to take power, Embassy media contacts report that Kan already is acting like Chief Cabinet Secretary. Whether or not he ultimately obtains that position, Kan likely will receive a senior Cabinet position in a Hatoyama cabinet.

The Maehara and Noda Groups Former DPJ President and later DPJ Vice President Seiji Maehara's "Ryoun Kai" (High Spirited Group) and former DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshihiko Noda's "Kasei Kai" (Group of a Hundred Blossoms) shared overlapping memberships and tended to act in concert. Maehara's group has 35 confirmed members [prior to the August 2009 election] while Noda's has 25 confirmed members [prior to the August 2009 election]. Both men graduated from the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a private graduate school dedicated to producing future politicians and business leaders. They share similar conservative policy beliefs, for which they are criticized by DPJ liberals who call them "policy fundamentalists" and too conservative.

Maehara and Noda are anti-Ozawa and have strongly criticized his behind-closed-door, old-school LDP political style, which they believe ultimately could threaten the party's existence. The two groups, however, lack unity and strong leadership, and therefore pose no real challenge to Ozawa. When the DPJ last selected its leadership, the Maehara and Noda groups tried to offer Noda as a candidate against Ozawa-backed Hatoyama. However, the indecisiveness of Noda and his supporters - who feared for their political futures should Noda's attempt fail - combined with insufficient support from the Maehara group, doomed the attempt. This failure caused a frustrated Representative, Sumio Mabuchi, to leave the Noda group and question its existence. As the two groups ended up backing then DPJ Vice President Katsuya Okada, who also had distanced himself from Ozawa, they saw him as the successor of party leader Hatoyama.

The Okada Quasi-Group Although Secretary General Okada had no formal group of his own, he enjoyed wide and growing support within the party. Okada's informal support group included those politicians who lost their seats in the 2005 Lower House election. After the DPJ's major defeat in the 2005 Lower House election, Okada took responsibility and resigned as party president. He continued to shoulder the burden of their defeat, visiting each losing candidate's district to support their continuing campaign activities. He visited the district of each failed candidate to urge them to continue their campaign activities. These trips earned him the reputation as the only senior member of the DPJ willing to campaign in country districts and at small events. This campaigning helped Okada, once dubbed "Robocop" and "His Unlaughing Highness" for his extreme, impersonal seriousness, become more approachable and gain the trust of fellow party members.

Many DPJ party members believe that Okada is "sincere" and that he was gaining respect within the party as part of his strategy to return to power. Okada was trying to expand his support base in the party with an eye on post-Hatoyama party leadership. Like Hatoyama, Okada possessed the ability to mediate between dissenting voices within the party. He is known as a realist on security policy and enjoys the strong support of the Maehara and Noda groups, though he does not necessarily share their ideological orientation. A solid number of DPJ members and potential Lower House election candidates would have supported him to replace Ozawa in the September 2008 DPJ presidential race should he decide to run. The Maehara and Noda groups firmly backed Okada, though Okada does not share the policy orientation of Maehara and Noda. But he is known as a security policy realist and is more skilled than Ozawa at consolidating party members' opinions.

The Yokomichi Group Former Speaker of the Lower House Takahiro Yokomichi led a group of about 30 former Socialist Party Members called the "Shin Seikyoku Kondan Kai" (New Political Situation Discussion Group). The Yokomichi group commanded a strong presence in the party because it controlled the votes of a number of liberal labor unions - such as the Municipal Workers' Union and the Teachers' union - that played a pivotal role in the DPJ's landslide victory in the previous Upper House Election. Because these groups featured prominently in his strategy for the 2009 election as well, Ozawa bought Yokomichi's support for compromises on security policy. Yokomichi headed the only DPJ group with a firm consensus not to revise Article 9 (the peace provision) of Japan's constitution. Instead, he supported a "U.N. Stand-by Force" concept that would allow more active participation by Japan in peacekeeping operations without constitutional revision.

The Kawabata Group DPJ Vice Presidents Tatsuo Kawabata led the "Minshu Kyokai" (Association of Democratic Socialists), a group with 35 confirmed members [prior to the August 2009 election], many of whom belonged to the now defunct Democratic Socialist Party. The Kawabata group also had strong ties to labor unions, especially the Confederation of Japanese Automobile Workers Union, the Federation of Electric Power Industry Workers Union, and the Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial Services, and General Workers Union. Despite close union ties, the Kawabata group shared the Hatoyama group's conservatism. As with the Yokomichi group, Ozawa worked closely with the Kawabata group to take advantage of the labor union vote.

The Hata Group Former Prime Minister and DPJ Supreme Advisor Tsutomu Hata headed the "Seiken Senryaku Kenkyukai" (Regime Strategy Study Group), whose 20 members [prior to the August 2009 election] included many former members of the LDP's old Tanaka Faction, including DPJ Supreme Advisor Kozo Watanabe and DPJ Vice President Hajime Ishii. The conservative Hata group's members lacked unity and overlapped with the Hatoyama and Noda groups. A significant number of members also supported Okada. As Hata had decided to retire after finishing his next term due to health problems, the group was not expected to last.

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Page last modified: 16-01-2014 19:29:57 ZULU