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Tuesday, April 4, 2006

OZAWA, KAN, OR UNIFIER

Will next DPJ chief be voted in?


Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan heavyweights Ichiro Ozawa and Naoto Kan both indicated Monday they might seek the DPJ presidency Friday but were otherwise noncommittal as executives explored ways to maintain unity among the rank and file and avoid an undemocratic selection process.

News photo
Naoto Kan (above), former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, heads to a Lower House session Monday as former Vice President Ichiro Ozawa speaks to reporters. Kan and Ozawa are considered the leading candidates to replace DPJ President Seiji Maehara.
News photo

Regardless of what position he will hold, DPJ Vice President Ozawa told reporters, "I will do my utmost (to end the Diet majority held by) the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito."

He indicated he will make a final decision after watching to see if the DPJ can be "united as one" to support the new leader after the scheduled presidential poll Friday.

"This should be a good opportunity to build all-party unity," Ozawa said in an apparent effort to urge members to give him full control if he is elected president.

Hatoyama quoted Kan as saying he will decide later.

Hatoyama, who fears factional infighting will severely split the scandal-hit party in the leadup to Friday's vote, met separately Monday with Kan and former Prime Minister and DPJ adviser Tsutomu Hata.

Later in the day, Hatoyama also held talks with Ozawa and urged him to support whoever is elected Friday.

"Otherwise, the party would have no future," Hatoyama told reporters, adding Ozawa agreed with him.

Ozawa, who bolted from the LDP in 1993 and headed the Liberal Party until the latter's merger with the DPJ in 2003, has often been criticized as being dictatorial in parties he has led. Some DPJ members are thus still unwilling to support him as president and would prefer someone else, including Kan.

"There may be party members who are still allergic to Ozawa, but now is not the time to keep talking about this," Hata told reporters after meeting with Hatoyama.

Hata argued that Ozawa and Kan, if either seeks the presidency, should huddle and decide in advance which one will stand down.

Hatoyama said he called on Hata and Kan to support whoever may become the next president, and they agreed.

Hatoyama said having Kan and Ozawa meet to decide which should seek the presidency could be one way to reinforce party solidarity.

But he quickly said this wrangling should not give the impression to the public of a closed-door decision based on a power balance by a handful of members.

DPJ Diet affairs chief Kozo Watanabe meanwhile criticized Hatoyama's pre-election spadework, saying an open and fair poll between true contenders is the only way for the DPJ to regain public trust.

"Let the people see (the election process). That's democracy," Watanabe said. "Mr. Hatoyama is now doing unnecessary things."



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