Top officials of the Democratic Party of Japan brushed aside speculation Sunday it may move up the schedule for its presidential election following the fiasco over a fabricated e-mail message.

“We will decide the election date in line with the party constitution,” DPJ President Seiji Maehara said in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, and Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama told a crowd in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, “We will hold the presidential election in September as planned.”

Their comments came after newly appointed Diet affairs chief Kozo Watanabe suggested in the morning it is likely the DPJ will hold the election earlier than planned, telling reporters, “I expect Mr. Maehara to complete the rest of his term, but we have to put the most faith in the public’s sentiment.”

There has been growing sentiment within the party that Maehara should resign, saying his executives failed to deal appropriately with the matter.

DPJ lawmaker Hisayasu Nagata lodged allegations that a son of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe had received money illicitly from disgraced Livedoor founder Takafumi Horie based on the fake e-mail message.

While apologizing at a party gathering of some 80 officials from local chapters on Saturday, Maehara said he has decided not to step down to avoid hamstringing the party during the current Diet session.

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