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News photo

Ichiro Ozawa –
, former Democratic Party of Japan vice president, has
reportedly decided to seek his party’s presidency, while two-time President
Naoto Kan indicated he was almost ready to throw his hat into the ring.

News photo

The developments increased the chances there will be a two-way faceoff for the party leadership.

“Choosing the leader through an election is the right course of action,” Kan told reporters after meeting with DPJ lawmakers at a Tokyo hotel. “I would like to make my decision (on whether to put my name forward) with serious consideration of the voices calling for my candidacy.”

DPJ lawmaker Satsuki Eda told reporters after the hotel meeting, “Mr. Kan is seriously considering running.”

Party executives were trying to decide whether there should be a vote on Friday to choose a replacement for Seiji Maehara, who stepped down last week, DPJ members said.

Some members hope the two possible candidates — Kan, 59, and former DPJ Vice President Ozawa, 63 — can agree that only one of them will put his name forward, and thus avoid a vote that could be divisive for the party, they said.

But some DPJ lawmakers oppose this out of concern that the public would see it as executive manipulation.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama met other senior party members Tuesday to discuss choosing the next leader.

“Rather than who will be picked, how (the leader) will be picked is drawing attention,” Hatoyama told reporters. “I hope everyone (in the DPJ) acts in a manner that is open and easy for everyone to understand.”

One lawmaker Hatoyama met, Lower House Vice Speaker Takahiro Yokomichi, expressed a desire to see the next leader selected by discussion.

“I do not think that holding talks (on the issue) should automatically be seen as bid-rigging,” he was quoted as saying.

Support for Ozawa has been mounting among party members. However, he had not officially agreed to put his name forward.

Maehara, 43, announced his resignation Friday to take responsibility for the scandal that evolved from a fake e-mail.

The DPJ claimed the e-mail showed that Livedoor founder Takafumi Horie asked for money to be sent to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe’s son before the September general election, in which Horie ran. Hatoyama is also stepping down from his post over the incident.

The new DPJ leader will complete the remainder of Maehara’s term, through September. Maehara had been completing the presidential term begun by Katsuya Okada, who stepped down after the party’s humiliating setback in the September election.

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