The Democratic Party of Japan has decided to leave the date of its presidential election to the discretion of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his secretary-general, Katsuya Okada.
The decision was made Aug. 17 at a meeting of party executives.
Based on the assumption that Kan will resign Aug. 26, Okada is pushing to hold the leadership election that will produce Kan's replacement on Aug. 29.
But there is growing criticism within the DPJ that there won't be enough time to discuss policy matters if the election is held only three days after Kan steps down.
Key bills are expected to pass the Diet by Aug. 26. Because of that, Okada is keen for official campaigning to kick off a day later so the leadership election can be be held two days afterward.
In the event the winner does not hold discussions with the two main opposition parties on forming a grand coalition, Okada plans to hold an election to nominate the next prime minister in the Diet by Aug. 31, the last day of the current session.
Okada is keen to hold the DPJ presidential election quickly so that the government can compile the third supplementary budget of this fiscal year for recovery efforts in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Also, the work of creating standards for budget requests for the next fiscal year has been delayed about one month compared to past years.
Sumio Mabuchi--a former minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, who has expressed his intention to run in the presidential election--opposes the election schedule.
"At least a certain period, including a weekend, is necessary (before the presidential election). It is also vital that party lawmakers hear the opinions of eligible voters in their constituencies," he told reporters Aug. 16.
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa has also expressed similar reservations.
"There must be a period in which candidates can discuss their policies openly and squarely," he said in an unofficial meeting of Cabinet members on Aug. 12.
With growing objections within the party, Okada intends to weigh up all opinions before setting a date for the election.
When the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, it allotted at least 10 days for the campaign period of its party presidential election in case the prime minister expressed his intention to resign before his tenure expired.
If the DPJ holds its party presidential election too soon after Kan resigns, there will be insufficient time during the campaign period to discuss policies.
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