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Shinshinto should stop using open primaries to choose its leader, a panel within the largest opposition party said in a report released July 4.

Former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, head of the panel on basic problems, presented the report to Shinshinto President Ichiro Ozawa. The panel said in the report that Shinshinto should instead decide on a leader through elections held at party conventions.

The party leader, as is the case with other political parties, would be elected by those attending party conventions, such as lawmakers and a limited number of representatives of local chapters. Under the current open primary system that Shinshinto uses, any Japanese aged 18 or older who pays 1,000 yen can cast a ballot by mail. A vote from a nonmember carries the same value as one from a lawmaker or any rank-and-file member.

The system, which was used only once when Ozawa was elected to the post in December 1995, was introduced in an effort to make the new party different from other conventional political parties at a time when the public was distancing themselves from long-existing political parties.

Shinshinto was established in December 1994 as a merger of eight political parties and a parliamentary group. Under the slogan of “real reforms,” Shinshinto has aimed to rival the powerful Liberal Democratic Party. The open primary system, however, brought about an intraparty schism between those close to Ozawa and others close to former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, who was beaten by Ozawa in the presidential election.

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