Staff writer “Sometimes articles about it are written in a humorous and bantering way,” said a grinning Naoto Kan, skillfully evading a reporter’s question on Thursday. At his first news conference of the new year, the Democratic Party of Japan’s policy chief was asked if he will run in the party’s presidency election, which will be held by the end of September. “Under President (Yukio) Hatoyama, the DPJ has become sharper and able to handle situations in a better way,” Kan said. “My first priority is to win power under Mr. Hatoyama.” Hatoyama defeated Kan in the party election in October. An affair had tainted the public image of Kan, who was once rated No. 1 in newsmagazine polls as a future prime minister. Party colleagues also widely criticized his high-handed decision-making style. After the election, Kan was demoted to policy chief, and few expected he would ever recover his former popularity and lead the largest opposition party again. But speculation is growing that Kan may run for DPJ president this year. Kan, noted for his thorough knowledge of policy matters, appears to be regaining clout and popularity with repeated demonstrations on TV of his superb debating skills. Kan did not directly answer the reporter’s question, but he noted that if the DPJ should win power and Hatoyama should become prime minister after this year’s general election, his term could continue for four years — until a next general election. “I think the party should observe the nation’s choice,” Kan said, adding he would support Hatoyama’s leadership. Few observers believe that the DPJ will be able to win a majority in the Lower House election — which must be held no later than October — and put Hatoyama in position to be prime minister. At the news conference, Kan’s real feelings about a possible candidacy may have been covered with a smile, which he rarely showed when he was party president and plagued by intraparty power struggles.

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