Japan’s ex-trade minister Kaieda to run in DPJ leadership race

Kyodo

Former trade minister Banri Kaieda announced Saturday he will run in the Democratic Party of Japan’s upcoming presidential election, with outgoing Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda stepping aside to take responsibility for the party’s crushing election defeat.

The outcome of the leadership race, with voting set to take place Tuesday at a plenary meeting of the party’s remaining lawmakers, is seen as critical for its chances of rebounding in time for next summer’s Upper House poll.

Unlike the DPJ’s Sept. 21 election that saw Noda reappointed president, voting this time will be limited to the 145 DPJ lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet.

“As one of the lawmakers who initially launched the DPJ (in 1996), I feel it is my responsibility to turn around the party,” Kaieda said at a news conference.

Other names being floated as possible candidates include outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, ex-transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and Akira Nagatsuma, a former health minister.

In last Sunday’s general election, the number of DPJ lawmakers in the 480-seat Lower House plunged to 57 from 230, as voters issued a severe rebuke for the party’s failure to make good on its 2009 campaign promises.

Noda declared that Sunday evening that he would step down as DPJ president to take the blame for the humiliating defeat.

To run in the presidential election, a candidate must be officially proposed by 20 DPJ lawmakers.