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Supporters of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama, the runnerup in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential race Friday, plan to form a policy study group under his leadership within the LDP.

The agreement was reached at a meeting of LDP members who had backed Kajiyama in the race, the participants said. Kajiyama captured 102 of the 365 votes cast by party members.

Speaking before his supporters, Kajiyama, 72, said lawmakers must respond to the public’s discontent over today’s situation. “Today is a starting point, and I pledge to do my best (in politics),” Kajiyama said. “I promise to take the lead.”

It is unclear if the group will become a new LDP faction or ultimately leave the LDP and form a new party. It is also not clear how many of the Kajiyama supporters will actually join the planned new group; many currently belong to various LDP factions.

When he announced his candidacy last week for the party race, Kajiyama quit the party’s largest faction, led by Keizo Obuchi, the new LDP chief.

One of the Kajiyama supporters said his defeat in the election was regrettable but added that he fared well since he won more than 100 votes.

Yohei Kono, former LDP president and one of Kajiyama’s main supporters, said he cannot comment on whether he will enter the new group until he knows how many lawmakers will join it. Kono is a member of a faction led by former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

After the party vote, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he hopes to lend a helping hand to Obuchi, his successor as LDP president. “He will succeed me at a very tough time. … I hope he will hold out against (the nation’s) current troubles, and I will assist him without interfering,” Hashimoto told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

“I’m delighted that Obuchi was picked,” Hashimoto added.

Naoto Kan, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, urged Obuchi to quickly dissolve the Lower House and call a general election once he is chosen as prime minister.

The selection of Obuchi as the new LDP president suggests there remains a huge gap between the party and the public sentiment, Kan said in a statement.

He congratulated Obuchi for his victory in the LDP presidential race but noted the race was dominated by the “same old factional dynamics.”

“Through the election process, the LDP failed to show any signs that it is ready to seek major reforms,” Kan said. “Instead, (the process) demonstrated it is not capable of such reforms.”

The DPJ will urge the LDP to dissolve the Lower House and give voters a chance to choose a government that is suitable to carry out reforms, he added.

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