Profile of Azuma Koshiishi: Symbol of party unity will have to overcome past grudges

August 31, 2011

It may have taken a while but veteran politician Azuma Koshiishi has strengthened his political presence to where he is now considered the "don" of the Upper House caucus of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

A major factor behind his rise is the strong trust placed in him by power broker Ichiro Ozawa. That, more than anything else, was what led to his appointment as secretary-general by newly selected Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

In his new role, the 75-year-old Koshiishi will have to prove that he truly can serve as a symbol of party unity and strive to achieve Noda's goal of creating a political atmosphere that overcomes past grudges.

As the oldest person to ever become party secretary-general, Koshiishi will face a major test.

He has long believed that the only way to create a strong nation is to foster able people.

After working as an elementary school teacher, Koshiishi became involved in the labor union movement and eventually became chairman of the Yamanashi prefectural teachers' union.

In 1990, he won his first term to the Lower House, running under the Social Democratic Party ticket.

He was involved in the formation of the predecessor to the DPJ in 1996, but he failed in a bid to win a Lower House seat in that year's Lower House election, contested for the first time under a new system combining single-seat districts with a proportional representation constituency.

In 1998, Koshiishi won his first term to the Upper House.

When he sought a second term six years later, members of the Yamanashi prefectural teachers' union were found to have cooperated in accumulating election funds, even though they were prohibited from doing so because they were public servants.

Koshiishi was criticized for that incident, which led to a number of teachers being fired or disciplined.

He has long maintained close ties with members of the Liberal Democratic Party, including the late Shin Kanemaru, who also represented Yamanashi Prefecture and was a close ally of Ozawa.

When Koshiishi served as chairman of the DPJ's Upper House Diet Affairs Committee and as secretary-general of the DPJ Upper House caucus, he strengthened a cooperative relationship with Mikio Aoki, who was considered the "don" of the LDP Upper House caucus.

Through that relationship, Koshiishi was on close terms with Taro Aso, the former prime minister, and Yoshitada Konoike, an Upper House member who once served as state minister in charge of disaster management.

One problem with Koshiishi's organizational management style may be his tendency to be closed off to the outside world. That could prove to be a problem in showing voters that the DPJ is open to the public.

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Azuma Koshiishi enters the DPJ president's room on Aug. 30. (Teruo Kashiyama)

Azuma Koshiishi enters the DPJ president's room on Aug. 30. (Teruo Kashiyama)

  • Azuma Koshiishi enters the DPJ president's room on Aug. 30. (Teruo Kashiyama)

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