Half-Taiwanese Woman Seeks to Lead Japan’s Main Opposition Party

Tokyo Gubernatorial Election 2016

Renho.

Photographer: Richard Atrero de Guzman/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Ex-model and newscaster will run in September party election
  • Renho says Democrats have failed to get policy message across

A half-Taiwanese former model and newscaster announced Friday she would run for the leadership of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party.

Renho, 48, who goes by only one name, will seek the leadership in an election set for September, two months after the party lost ground to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition in an upper house election. Victory would make her the first woman to head Japan’s main opposition group since the 1990s.

Having a woman at the helm would help the DP differentiate itself from the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito, which have never had a female leader. The DP failed to offer a clear alternative in the July 10 upper house poll, and lost seats despite support from several other opposition parties that were seeking to oust Abe.

“The supporters of the DP have unfortunately not been able to get our policies across to the people,” Renho told reporters in Tokyo. “I want to use my powers of communication to change this,” she added. “I want the DP to be a party that offers alternatives -- a party that people can choose.”

She went on to criticize the government for its handling of the release of information about losses at the public pension fund and vowed to protect the pacifist Article 9 of the constitution.

Potential Rival

Former Vice Defense Minister Akihisa Nagashima has also said on Twitter that he is seeking the necessary backing from 20 lawmakers to make his own run. Current party leader Katsuya Okada has said he doesn’t plan to enter the contest.

Renho, herself a member of the less powerful upper house, served as minister for administrative reform while the DP’s predecessor, the Democratic Party of Japan, was in government from 2009 to 2012. In a Kyodo News poll published Thursday, Renho was seen by respondents as the most appropriate person to lead the DP.

Known for dressing in stylish white suits, she served on a government cost-cutting panel that was broadcast live on the web, drawing plaudits for grilling bureaucrats over what were deemed wasteful projects. She was also criticized for suggesting Japan should be content with the world’s second-best supercomputer, rather than plowing more money into research.

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