TOKYO -- The newly elected leader of Japan's Democratic Party was forced to contend with a bitter dispute over personnel matters on Day 2, signaling the formidable challenge she will face in trying to unite the fractured party.
The fighting erupted over Renho's decision to install former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in the party's No. 2 post, as members who remember Noda's failed tenure at the top lodged protests.
"I will bring everybody's voices together," Renho said with a stiff smile at a meeting of Democratic Party lawmakers on Friday. "We must face the Abe government."
She then went on to nominate Noda as secretary-general. Noda "has the experience to go up against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the lower house," said Renho. She hopes that the sharp-tongued Noda will eviscerate opponents in lower house debates.
While serving as prime minister in 2012, Noda worked out an agreement with the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito on a consumption tax that combines social security reform. He then dissolved the lower house for a snap election, in which his party, then called the Democratic Party of Japan, lost in a landslide.
Renho asked him on Thursday to take the secretary-general's chair, which he initially refused. But the new leader insisted, arguing that no other leadership appointments could be made unless he accepted.
Many party members where stunned at the news. "Think about the people who lost their Diet seats in the 2012 elections," said lawmaker Seiji Osaka.
"Ms. Renho called for a fresh approach to change the party," said fellow lawmaker Takashi Shinohara. "Nothing changes with this appointment."
It is highly unusual for the party's No. 2 to come from the same faction as its leader. Members of other factions that supported Renho say Noda, who they blame for the Democratic Party's downfall, will pull the strings behind the scenes. They are concerned over how the appointment will impact the party in the next lower house elections.
Less than half of the 147 lawmakers attended the meeting. Although Noda's appointment was eventually approved, only a few applauded the decision.
Renho also asked former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono over the phone to become acting leader. Hosono did not immediately respond, and instead met with Renho in person in an attempt to convince her that Noda was not the right choice for secretary-general.
Renho had planned to also decide on the chairs of the Policy Research Committee and the Diet Affairs Committee on Friday, according to a party source. But Hosono, unhappy with Noda's appointment, urged her to take more time. Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who ran against Renho for party leader, turned down her offer for an advisory role.