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Weeks of jostling among younger Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers aiming to run in this month’s election for party president effectively ended Monday after Seiji Maehara agreed to give up his candidacy and support rival Yoshihiko Noda.

With Maehara’s withdrawal, contenders in the presidential race are expected to be current party leader Yukio Hatoyama; Secretary General Naoto Kan; former Vice President Takahiro Yokomichi; Vice President Kansei Nakano; and Noda.

Although four younger-generation DPJ lawmakers initially expressed their intention to run, two gave up after confirming they were unable to gather the support of 20 party members, the minimum necessary to enter the Sept. 23 race.

Maehara and Noda agreed last week to decide which of them would run after combining the results of an opinion poll and the number of supporters they had gathered.

Although Maehara came out on top in terms of public support in the opinion poll conducted Sunday, Noda was able to gather more support from the party’s Diet lawmakers, allowing him to come out on top overall.

“I promise to give my wholehearted support to Mr. Noda from now on to create a new DPJ,” Maehara told a news conference, adding he will do his utmost to persuade his supporters to back Noda.

The focus now is whether Maehara’s supporters, who opposed the Noda camp, will support him instead of Kan, a former member of New Party Sakigake, to which Maehara and most of his supporters once belonged.

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