After months of scrutiny over his response to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant crisis and his questionable political acumen, industry minister Banri Kaieda has suddenly emerged as a leading candidate in the Democratic Party of Japan presidential election.
The 62-year-old Kaieda had planned to run in the election after saying during Diet deliberations on July 7 that he would step down as economy, trade and industry minister.
However, things did not go as planned, since he was busy as minister overseeing an energy-related bill discussed in the Diet and was forced to run for the presidency with his status as industry minister intact.
Kaieda, whose ministry oversees energy policy, broke down in tears when he was grilled in a Lower House committee meeting on July 29 about his unfulfilled resignation promise.
Many Diet members present were not impressed.
"Politician or not, you stain your own dignity if you've once talked about resigning but continue to stay on," said Ryosei Akazawa of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
"I am not concerned about my own value," Kaieda responded, his voice trembling. He then burst into tears after returning to his seat.
"(A politician) shouldn't cry," DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa later said.
Still, Kaieda won support from Ozawa and his intraparty group as well as former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's faction on Aug. 26, the day before the campaign kicked off.
One of the main reasons for Kaieda's newfound strength is that he has a weak support base within the party and can be easily manipulated, sources said.
Sources close to Kaieda said his main decision to run is the grudge he holds against Naoto Kan, who resigned as prime minister Aug. 26. Kaieda wants to become prime minister to carry out his own brand of politics and was upset to see Kan berate officials in his ministry over the Fukushima nuclear accident, they said.
Kaieda served as a secretary to Upper House member Chinpei Nozue after graduating college. With Nozue he studied the economic workings and that experience helped him emerge as an economic commentator.
In 1993, he entered national politics as a Lower House member. In 1996, he joined the first DPJ formed by Yukio Hatoyama and Kan.
However, he soon distanced himself from Kan.
Although former DPJ President Hatoyama appointed Kaieda as head of the party's Policy Affairs Research Council in September 2002, Kan, who became the party president in December 2002, replaced Kaieda with Yukio Edano, the current chief Cabinet secretary.
At that time, Kaieda is said to have told people around him, "I was betrayed by a person whom I believed was close."
Kaieda also showed his displeasure in January 2011, when Kan tapped Kaoru Yosano, who had been a member of a new opposition party, the Sunrise Party of Japan, as the new state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy. Kaieda and Yosano were rivals in Tokyo's first district.
"Life is so unfair," Kaieda said at the time.
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