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Friday, Sep. 7, 2012
Grassroots support key in party votes
Votes cast by members other than elected lawmakers are expected to play a significant role in shaping the presidential polls that the ruling party and biggest opposition rival are gearing up for this month as a general election lurks over the horizon.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to officially announce as early as this week his bid to seek a second term as president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, while Sadakazu Tanigaki, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, is also hoping to be re-elected.
Amid a growing consensus that Noda will dissolve the Lower House for a snap election this autumn, Diet lawmakers are increasingly factoring in the opinions of rank-and-file party members so the leaders they elect — or re-elect — are seen as popular with the general public.
The DPJ amended its presidential election rules in January, extending its leader's term in office to three years from two and canceling the voting rights of non-Japanese members and supporters to quell criticism both within and outside the party.
As a result, those entitled to vote in the Sept. 21 DPJ election comprise its Diet lawmakers, excluding former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama because his membership remains suspended, unofficial candidates for general elections, local DPJ assembly members and various other party members and supporters.
In the DPJ leadership poll, every lawmaker's vote will be worth two points and those of prospective general election candidates one point.
The votes of rank-and-file party members and supporters will be counted by DPJ prefectural chapters and proportionally allocated to the candidates, while votes cast by local assembly members, worth a total of 141 points, also will be allocated on a proportional basis.
As for the LDP's election Sept. 26, lawmakers other than the vice speaker of the Lower House and the vice president of the House of Councilors will have a total of 200 votes.
LDP members other than Diet lawmakers will have 300 votes, which must be cast by Sept. 25. Of them, three votes will be allocated to each of the party's 47 prefectural chapters and the remaining 159 to LDP chapters on a proportional basis, depending on the number of members and associates.
In either election, if no candidate manages to secure an outright majority in the first round of voting, the top two will face off in a direct ballot.
In such an event, only lawmakers — in addition to general election candidates in the case of the DPJ — are eligible to vote, meaning that even a candidate with strong grassroots backing could still wind up losing.