Industry minister Banri Kaieda threw his hat into the ring Aug. 19 for the ruling party's leadership election to pick Naoto Kan's successor as prime minister, and is seeking support from power broker Ichiro Ozawa to clinch victory.
To win over Ozawa's 120-member intraparty group, Kaieda, 62, plans to call for the reinstatement of privileges that Ozawa had enjoyed as a member of the Democratic Party of Japan before he was punished in a scandal over political funding.
Kaieda was set to meet Ozawa, a former DPJ president, as early as Aug. 19 to inform him of his plans to lift the disciplinary measure.
Another possible contender is former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. While he told senior officials of his intraparty group that he will not run, Maehara has still left that option open.
"I will make a final judgment myself (in the not-so-distant future)," he told reporters on Aug. 18.
If Maehara runs, the 49-year-old lawmaker will be a formidable candidate. He has consistently ranked high as a future prime minister in public opinion polls.
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who has already declared his candidacy, would face difficulties as he had counted on support from Maehara's group.
At meetings on Aug. 18, young and mid-ranking members of Maehara's group were particularly vocal in urging him to run.
"I have not been able to make up my mind. I will think about it with an open mind," Maehara was quoted as saying.
Maehara, who resigned as foreign minister in March over illegal contributions from a non-Japanese resident, is concerned that the scandal could come back to haunt him if he contests the leadership race, according to sources close to the lawmaker.
A total of 60 lawmakers attended three meetings with Maehara on Aug. 18.
A first-term lawmaker said it would be "rude to the public" if Maehara skips the upcoming race and waits until the DPJ's next leadership election sheduled for September 2012 for a better opportunity.
A member close to Noda said Maehara's group should embrace Noda's campaign wholeheartedly, but one participant noted a general reticence among the members to do so.
During a meeting on the night of Aug. 18, Maehara said, "I want to consider what to do thoroughly. I want to think over the weekend."
Meanwhile, Kaieda's plan to seek support from Ozawa's group could backfire and invite strong criticism from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito as well as from the public.
Kaieda does not have his own group in the DPJ. Because of that, he will have to rely on support from Ozawa's group, the largest in the DPJ, a 30-member group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and about 30 members affiliated with the former Social Democratic Party of Japan.
Sakihito Ozawa, a former Environment Minister who had indicated a willingness to run, will back out and throw his support behind Kaieda, sources said.
Kaieda's policy platform in the DPJ presidential election will be to call for a gradual reduction in the number of nuclear power plants around the nation, according to sources close to the lawmaker.
Kaieda also plans to take a cautious stance toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade initiative that he has supported, to give priority to recovery of farming and fishery businesses in the Tohoku region, which was badly battered by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
- « Prev
- Next »