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Seiji Maehara of the Democratic Party of Japan said Wednesday he will run in the main opposition party’s presidential election in a bid to succeed Katsuya Okada, who is bowing out over the trouncing in Sunday’s Lower House election.

“The party received a devastating blow and I decided (to become a candidate) to rebuild it,” the 43-year-old Maehara said.

He retained his House of Representatives seat in the election. He is designated as Defense Agency chief in the DPJ’s shadow Cabinet.

A group of junior DPJ lawmakers has asked Yoshihiko Noda, the shadow Cabinet finance minister, to run, but Noda has said he will back Maehara’s bid, the lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, another group of lawmakers close to former party chief Naoto Kan is trying to persuade him to try for the post again, they said.

“We need a leader who can fight well against the dominant Liberal Democratic Party,” said one of Kan’s supporters, an apparent reference to Kan’s ability to hold his own in debates with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Deputy party head Ichiro Ozawa, another possible candidate, has yet to say whether he will seek the post.

Ozawa met with several lawmakers close to him Wednesday but only stressed the need for the party to make preparations “to beat the LDP,” the lawmakers said.

The LDP trounced the DPJ in Sunday’s House of Representatives election, winning 296 of 480 seats.

The DPJ lost 64 seats, leaving it with 113.

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