The 13 freshman members of the Democratic Party of Japan elected for the first time in September’s Lower House election issued a joint statement Thursday asking the party’s presidential candidates to create party unity.

The freshman lawmakers said they planned to submit a written statement to each of the candidates in Friday’s party presidential election — Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa, both veteran lawmakers with leadership experience; and Yoshinori Suematsu. Suematsu, an ex-diplomat, later Thursday announced that he is abandoning his bid because he failed to gather the 20 party member signatures required to be officially listed as a candidate.

The freshmen also said they would hand the statement to DPJ lawmaker Takashi Kawamura. But aides did not confirm whether Kawamura, who has run in past leadership races, will run this time.

In the statement, the freshman members also requested that the power of authority and responsibility be centralized with the secretary general in order for the party to maintain unity.

The freshmen explained that the election is taking place because the DPJ lacked the ability to restore its credibility in the wake of a fiasco over a fake e-mail the party tried to use to discredit LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe by linking him to a purported shady funds transfer from arrested Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie. The debacle prompted DPJ President Seiji Maehara to step down March 31.

“What we are hoping for is to ensure that the secretary general is grasping the situation and has a firm grip over the management of the party,” said freshman Akio Fukuda, a former Tochigi governor.

As he received the request, Kan said, with a smile, that if he wins the election, he will take on the duties responsibly.

On the question of which candidate the freshmen will vote for, they said they will not vote as a bloc but rather leave the decision to each lawmaker.

Later Thursday, Kan and Ozawa held a meeting at a Tokyo hotel. Afterward, they told reporters they agreed that whoever won, the victor would place priority on party unity when selecting the party’s leadership.

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