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Senior Democratic Party of Japan member Banri Kaieda may challenge Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the Sept. 14 DPJ presidential election, DPJ sources said Saturday.

Kaieda, 61, chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Committee, told a lawmaker close to former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa at a Tokyo hotel Wednesday that he is willing to run to replace Kan, the sources said.

The focus of the election is whether Ozawa and other DPJ members critical of the current party leadership will be able to field a candidate to block Kan’s re-election.

Kaieda, an economist-turned-politician, has been elected to the Lower House five times from the No. 1 constituency in Tokyo and belongs to a group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Kaieda is said to be trusted by Ozawa.

Kan, who took over from Hatoyama as prime minister and DPJ president in June, has already expressed his readiness to run in the upcoming election.

But he has come under fire within the DPJ over the July Upper House election loss.

Asked about his possible candidacy, Kaieda told reporters Friday, “I will think carefully.”

Ozawa, involved in funding scandals, stepped down from the DPJ’s No. 2 position when Hatoyama quit in June. Ozawa has been critical of the party leadership, especially Kan, who called for him to keep a low profile as he sought to cast off the DPJ kingpin’s influence.

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