Seiji Maehara

Seiji Maehara (前原 誠司, Maehara Seiji, born 30 April 1962) is a Japanese politician and was the leader of the Democratic Party from 1 September 2017 until its dissolution later that month.[1] He has also been a member of the House of Representatives of Japan since 1993.

Seiji Maehara
前原 誠司
Leader of the Opposition
In office
1 September 2017  23 October 2017
Prime MinisterShinzō Abe
Preceded byRenhō
Succeeded byYukio Edano
In office
17 September 2005  7 April 2006
Prime MinisterJunichirō Koizumi
Preceded byKatsuya Okada
Succeeded byIchirō Ozawa
President of the Democratic Party
In office
1 September 2017  1 November 2017
Preceded byRenhō
Succeeded byKohei Otsuka
President of the Democratic Party of Japan
In office
17 September 2005  7 April 2006
Prime MinisterJunichirō Koizumi
Preceded byKatsuya Okada
Succeeded byIchirō Ozawa
Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy
In office
1 October 2012  26 December 2012
Prime MinisterYoshihiko Noda
Preceded byMotohisa Furukawa
Succeeded byAkira Amari
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
17 September 2010  7 March 2011
Prime MinisterNaoto Kan
Preceded byKatsuya Okada
Succeeded byYukio Edano (Acting)
Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
In office
16 September 2009  17 September 2010
Prime MinisterYukio Hatoyama
Naoto Kan
Preceded byKazuyoshi Kaneko
Succeeded bySumio Mabuchi
Member of the House of Representatives
Assumed office
18 July 1993
Preceded byMikio Okuda
ConstituencyKyoto-2nd (2000–)
Kinki PR (1996–2000)
Kyoto-1st (1993–1996)
Personal details
Born (1962-04-30) 30 April 1962
Kyoto, Japan
Political partyDPFP
Other political
JNP (1992–1994)
NPS (1994–1998)
DPJ (1998–2016)
DP (2016–2017)
Kibō (2017–2018, merger)
Alma materKyoto University (LLB)
WebsiteOfficial website

Maehara was the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) from 2005 to 2006, and later served as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Minister of Foreign Affairs under the cabinets of Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan, before resigning from the cabinet in March 2011 after he acknowledged receiving illegal donations from a South Korean national living in Japan.[2] Affiliated to the openly revisionist organization Nippon Kaigi,[3] Maehara is viewed as a "China hawk"[4][5] and a proponent of close ties with the United States.[6][7][8] He is also often viewed as being politically conservative.[1][9][10]

Personal background

Maehara was born in Kyoto to parents from Tottori Prefecture. He attended the law faculty of Kyoto University, where he majored in international politics. He attended the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management from 1987 to 1991.

Maehara married his wife Airi (愛里) in June 1995; they have no children. He likes to take photographs of trains as a hobby.

Early political career

Maehara won election to the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly in 1991 with the support of, among others, future Diet member Keiro Kitagami. At the time, he was the youngest prefectural assemblyman in Kyoto history.

He was elected to the House of Representatives as a member of the Japan New Party of Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993. In 1994, he left the party and formed the "Democratic Wave" with several other young parliamentarians, but later that year joined the Sakigake Party, which was briefly part of the majority government. In 1998, he joined the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) when it was formed that same year.

As a member of the DPJ he focused on security affairs and often negotiated with the government. In the shadow governments he has served as the Shadow Minister for Security Affairs and Shadow Minister for the Defense Agency.

Term as DPJ President

After the crushing defeat of the DPJ in the 2005 snap election and the resignation of DPJ leader Katsuya Okada, the elected representatives of the party met to choose a new leader. The two candidates were Naoto Kan and Maehara. Maehara defeated the 58-year-old Kan by a razor-thin count of 96–94 in open balloting by party members from both Houses of the Diet, with two members abstaining and two others having cast invalid votes. Maehara was appointed DPJ president on 17 September 2005.

However, Maehara's term as party leader was short lived. Although he initially led the party's criticism of the Koizumi administration, particularly in regards to connections between LDP lawmakers and scandal-ridden Livedoor, the revelation that a fake email was used to try to establish this link greatly damaged his credibility. The scandal led to the resignation of Representative Hisayasu Nagata and of Maehara as party leader on 31 March. New elections for party leader were held on 7 April, in which Ichirō Ozawa was elected President.


In the 2009 Japanese general election, the Democratic Party won a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives, allowing the party to form a new government.

Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Maehara was appointed Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on 16 September 2009. In this role, he was the spokesman for a number of government initiatives, including:

  • Cessation of construction work on Yamba Dam
  • Opening Haneda Airport in Tokyo to long-haul international flights
  • Bankruptcy restructuring of Japan Airlines
  • Experimentation with reducing or eliminating tolls on the Japanese expressway network

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan reshuffled the cabinet effective 17 September 2010, making Maehara the youngest Minister of Foreign Affairs in postwar Japanese history. The main international relations event during his tenure as foreign minister was the 2010 Senkaku boat collision incident, which led to increased tensions between Japan and the People's Republic of China concerning their overlapping claims to the Senkaku Islands.

Resignation from the Cabinet

In March 2011, only four days before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Maehara resigned as Minister for Foreign Affairs after it emerged that he had accepted a political donation of ¥250,000 (approx. US$3,000)[11] from a 72-year-old South Korean permanent resident of Japan who operated a restaurant in Kyoto. Maehara had known the woman since junior high school,[12] but her foreign nationality made the donation illegal if it had been accepted intentionally.[13] Maehara apologised to the nation for only holding the post for 6 months and for "provoking distrust" over his political funding.[13] According to the Japan Times, the resignation would cause Japanese relations with the United States to weaken.[14] The donation was revealed by an opposing party politician, Shoji Nishida; The Economist described the incident as a scandal based on a technicality that primarily illustrates the unsatisfactory treatment of Koreans in Japan.[15]

Candidacy for Prime Minister

Following Kan's announced resignation in August 2011, Maehara initially planned to support Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, but broke off this support due to disagreement over whether to raise the consumption tax, and declared his own candidacy for the presidency of the DPJ on 22 August.[16] He lost to Noda and Economy Minister Banri Kaieda in the first round of balloting on 29 August.

Second stint as Leader of the Opposition

In 2016, the DPJ merged with Japan Innovation Party forming the Democratic Party. Maehara attempted to make a comeback at the leadership in the first leadership election post-merger, but lost against former minister Renho.[17]

Renho resigned in July 2017 after the DP suffered a bad result in the 2017 Tokyo assembly elections.[18] A leadership election was immediately held to select the new leader of the party. Maehara was one of the candidates contesting the election, along with former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. Through his reliable support from conservative DP and former JIP members, Maehara comfortably won the leadership election with 60% of the points up for grabs.[19] He returned as the leader of the largest opposition party almost 12 years after ascending to the post for the first time.

Maehara's second stint as president was short and rocky. One of his first acts as the new president was to appoint rising-star lawmaker Shiori Yamao as secretary-general in his new executive. Immediately after her nomination, tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshun published an allegation of affair against Yamao. Whilst the details were inconclusive, Yamao resigned from the party less than a week after the affair was reported, widely seen as an effort to halt further decline of DP's fledgling support.[20] Maehara also faced a potential rival in Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, who grew increasingly confident after her party's landslide win in the Tokyo Assembly elections and was rumoured of planning to form a conservative national party to face Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the next general election.

Abe called a snap election less than three weeks to Maehara's ascension to the presidency. This threw the party into disarray, as it had not completed preparing its election platform. At the same day as Abe's election declaration, Koike finally launched a new party called Kibō no Tō (Party of Hope). Seeing Koike's high popularity at that time as a potential asset, Maehara coordinated with Koike on DP candidates' nominations for the election. Koike agreed to endorse DP candidates and Maehara effectively disbanded the party in order to allow the candidates run under the Kibō banner. However, despite Maehara's request, Koike imposed an ideological filter that effectively barred liberal-leaning members of the DP, such as Yukio Edano, from joining Kibō. This led Edano to form the Constitutional Democratic Party less than three weeks before election to house liberal DP members.[21] Maehara himself ran as independent.

Koike's multiple blunders during the campaign led Kibō to fall well short of high initial expectations, becoming the second largest opposition party behind the Edano-led CDP. Maehara, whose political gamble had backfired, was under heavy pressure to resign from his position as DP president. Maehara resigned from his post and from the party on 28 October 2017, ending his tumultuous second term as Leader of the Opposition.[22]

Post 2017 election

Maehara joined Kibō in November 2017.[23] When Kibō merged with the Democratic Party in May 2018 to form the Democratic Party for the People, Maehara also joined the DPP[24]


  1. Struggling DP elects Maehara as next president. The Japan Times. Author — Tomohiro Osaki. Published 1 September 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  2. "Maehara announces resignation over illegal donations from foreigner". Mainichi Daily News. 7 March 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  3. Nippon Kaigi website
  4. "Kan replaces over half of his Cabinet". The Japan Times. Kyodo News. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  5. "Japan's new foreign minister gets tough on China". Associated Press. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  6. "Factbox: Japan's new foreign minister Maehara". Reuters. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  7. "Japan's Premier Shuffles Cabinet". The New York Times. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  8. Johnston, Eric, "Contenders' backgrounds", Japan Times, 28 August 2011, p. 2
  9. Japan opposition struggles to forge distinct identity. Financial Times. Author — Robin Harding. Published 29 August 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  10. Ailing Japan opposition picks Maehara as new leader. Nikkei Asian Review. Author — Tsubasa Suruga. Published 1 September 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  11. Sanchanta, Mariko (3 March 2011). "Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara to Resign Over Illegal Political Donations". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  12. "When will Japan's political musical chairs stop?". MSNBC. 7 March 2011. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  13. "Japan Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara resigns". BBC. 6 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  14. "DPJ loses potential successor to Kan". Japan Times. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  15. A foreigner in her own home: Shoddy treatment of its Korean residents once again deals Japan a black eye. The Economist. 10 March 2011
  16. Seiji Maehara to contest Japan leadership race. BBC. 22 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  17. Osaki, Tomohiro (15 September 2016). "Renho elected leader of main opposition Democratic Party". Japan Times. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  18. Yoshida, Reiji (27 July 2017). "Main opposition chief Renho resigns Democratic Party leadership". Japan Times. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  19. "Long-suffering Democratic Party elects Maehara". Asahi Shimbun. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  20. "Opposition party female legislator resigns but denies affair". Asahi Shimbun. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  21. "Edano plans to form new party as liberal force in election". Asahi Shimbun. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  22. Nakazaki, Taro (28 October 2017). "Democratic Party to remain but not with Maehara as chief". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  23. "前原氏の入党を了承" (in Japanese). Mainichi Shimbun. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  24. "国民民主党62人参加 「野党第1党」に届かず" (in Japanese). Mainichi Shimbun. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
House of Representatives of Japan
Preceded by
Mikio Okuda
Eiichi Nagasue
Yukio Takemura
Bunmei Ibuki
Katsuhiko Takeuchi
Representative for Kyoto 1st district (multi-member)
Served alongside: Keiji Kokuta, Bunmei Ibuki, Yuzuru Takeuchi, Mikio Okuda
District eliminated
New constituency Representative for the Kinki PR block
Preceded by
Mikio Okuda
Representative for Kyoto 2nd district
Party political offices
Preceded by
Katsuya Okada
Leader of the Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Ichirō Ozawa
Political offices
Preceded by
Kazuyoshi Kaneko
Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Succeeded by
Sumio Mabuchi
Preceded by
Katsuya Okada
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Takeaki Matsumoto
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