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Wednesday, Sep. 5, 2012
Hosono resists call to take on Noda for presidency of DPJ
By MASAMI ITO
Environment Minister Goshi Hosono expressed reluctance Tuesday to run in this month's Democratic Party of Japan presidential election despite internal calls for him to take on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Although most political insiders and observers believe Noda will most likely be re-elected head of the ruling DPJ, the appearance of Hosono, the young, popular minister in charge of dealing with the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, could be a potential threat.
The next DPJ leader will be the "face" of the Lower House general election, which could be held as early as this fall. Some DPJ lawmakers have expressed concern that they will lose badly if Noda remains the leader and are pushing for Hosono's candidacy.
But Hosono told reporters Tuesday morning he is intent on focusing on his current job.
"There are many things I need to deal with as the environment minister, and carrying them out is what is most important to me," he said. "Therefore, I am not considering (running in) the presidential election."
He refused to comment further on the presidential race, including whether he would support Noda.
Hosono has been working side by side with Noda on various contentious issues, including the consumption tax hike and the restart of two reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, and it would be difficult to differentiate their policies if both were to run.
Other potential candidates include former agriculture chief Michihiko Yamada and ex-Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, who are supported by DPJ lawmakers critical of Noda's key policies. Former farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu, former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and former Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa have also expressed an interest in running.
The Liberal Democratic Party is meanwhile also hoping to find the best leader possible.
Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki wants to retain the helm of the largest opposition force, but his chances appear doubtful now that many lawmakers are vying for the post, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, former LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba and former economic minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
Most recently, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara, the son of hawkish Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, has also emerged as a possible candidate.
Earlier this week, Ishihara made remarks that suggested he was thinking of running but was quick to backpedal to avoid giving off the impression that he was betraying Tanigaki, for whom he works as the party's No. 2 man.
During a news conference Tuesday morning, Ishihara refused to clarify whether he will throw his hat in the ring.
"I would like to firmly support (Tanigaki) as long as I am secretary general and make sure that nothing goes wrong with the party's management," Ishihara said.