On 14 September from the lobby of a hotel in the capital, the elections of the President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) the ruling party were held. The two candidates, Naoto Kan (63), prime minister, and Ichiro Ozawa (68), former secretary of the DPJ had to contend 1222 points, but there were several thousand voters, whose votes, however, did not all have the same weight : the 411 DPJ members of parliament had 822 points reserved, because their vote was worth 2 points, 100 went to the regional assemblies and the remaining 300 to members.
It was a surprisingly democratic election, not only in appearance, but even more so because MPs consulted with their constituencies. And so it appeared that among the so-called "Osawa children" some have not voted in favour of their mentor. As a result Khan won with 721 points against 491 for Ozawa.
The serious face of the winner
After the announcement of victory, Kan, despite the significant advantage over his challenger, maintained a 'serious expression’. When he got up to thank the supporters he was aware of the formidable challenges ahead. Two in particular: a divided Parliament and the struggle for power within his party.
For over a year, the DPJ has had an absolute majority in the House but because of the electoral defeat of 'July 11 last , it has a minority in the Senate.
The urgent challenge that Khan, confirmed as prime minister, is facing is the severe economic downturn that he intends to resolve through a policy of fiscal stringency and a massive creation of jobs. To achieve the strict program needs, as well as the support of the legislature, the support of a united party. "I'll do my best”, he said, after the elections, “to build a united party where every member of the DPJ can work with all his or her forces."
Handshakes and diplomatic smiles
Once the election was over, Kan and Ozawa presented themselves to the public with a smile and firm handshake, as if to indicate the intention to cooperate.
"No Saido" (Japanese transliteration of English no side) was the refrain of the short speech of the re-elected Prime Minister. For his part, Ozawa had earlier assured the public of his collaboration, regardless of the results of the elections. An optimism that is not shared by most critics, on the contrary, they fear a split in the party.
The weakness of a brilliant victory
In this election what has emerged in the foreground are not programs but personalities of the two protagonists. "The electoral race”, writes the editor of The Japan Times, “was a quarrel between Prime Minister Khan who has not shown strong leadership and former party president Ozawa personality who not transparent despite his political skills."
Khan's win with a considerable advantage over Ozawa should provide sufficient confidence for the former to begin a vigorous government action to address the worrying economic situation. But it is not. If the figures of three categories of "electors", are correct the picture that emerges is very different.
Kan was blessed with good margin at the regional assemblies level (60 points against 40) and that of members and supporters (249 against 51 for Ozawa), but at the DPJ parliamentary level the difference was very small: 412 points against 400, ie because every DPJ parliamentary vote is worth two points, 206 MPs supported Kan and 200Ozawa. Which reveals a very divided.
The prime minister's dilemma
An employee of 29 who supported the prime minister for his realistic policy, said: "I expect a lot from Kan and I agree with him about the need to revise the (the party) program. It is important to correct it if the situation warrants it", and Mr. Yishitaka Suzuki (60), who usually does not vote for the DPJ, expects a lot from Khan, but criticized the party's internal division. "It seems to me”, he said “that the DPJ is acting like the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has always been sick with factionalism. Ozawa is accelerating the DPJ divisions in this sense”.
In this context, Khan faces a dilemma for the reshuffle of the cabinet: to offer or not important offices to Ozawa or members of his group. If you take the first alternative he will be the subject of strong criticism by those who fear the return of the old politics of the Liberal Democratic Party. If he adopts the second, secession within the party is likely.
Kozo Watanabe (78), former Speaker of the House, and now a member of the DPJ, urged Ozawa to accept the outcome of the election with elegance and asked Khan to forget who won in an effort to put the right people in the right place.