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Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008

Noda out; Ozawa set to keep DPJ helm


Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yoshihiko Noda gave up his bid Friday to run in the party's presidential election in September, increasing the likelihood that current leader Ichiro Ozawa will be reinstalled unopposed.

The presidential election of the largest opposition party has been in the spotlight because the next leader could become the prime minister if the DPJ wins the next general election, which must be held by September 2009.

"Judging comprehensively, I came to the conclusion that I am not in a situation to engage in a battle (for the presidency)," said Noda, who chairs the DPJ's public relations committee. "It is due to my lack of power . . . it is a shame."

Although Noda had expressed eagerness to run against veteran lawmaker Ozawa, he came up against strong opposition not only from Ozawa's supporters but also within his own policy group.

"The opinions were split right in two," Noda said. "The main reason (why I decided not to run) was because of the many voices calling for me to be prudent and to exercise self-restraint."

With the Lower House general election set to take place sometime in the next 13 months, many DPJ lawmakers expressed concern that the party would appear divided in the eyes of the public if two candidates ran in the presidential election. But Noda had stressed that holding an election and having policy debate were necessary.

"There is the sense of reality that the DPJ could seize power (in an election)," Noda said. "I wanted to talk politics with Ozawa and appeal to the public. (The presidential race) was the perfect opportunity to take the first step to achieving a change in government."

Later Friday, Yukio Edano, who had voiced an interest in running, said he won't be a candidate.

Ex-DPJ Presidents Katsuya Okada and Seiji Maehara have already voiced reluctance to run in the race.



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