Factional jockeying within the Democratic Party of Japan is intensifying ahead of its Sept. 14 presidential election.
While Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the current DPJ president, is so far the only declared candidate, many of the party’s groupings are expected to make moves this week with a key question in mind — which of the factions will support Kan’s re-election and which will attempt to block it?
Among Kan’s backers, around 20 lawmakers led by Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda met Tuesday in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. Noda said Kan should be re-elected.
“To tackle the agenda of achieving economic growth and fiscal rehabilitation, Naoto Kan should remain prime minister,” Noda said.
A group of about 40 lawmakers close to former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa plans to ask the former party kingpin to seek the top spot, one of them said.
In a meeting in the Diet on Tuesday, the group almost agreed to try to dethrone Kan.
Kenji Yamaoka, former chairman of the DPJ Diet Affairs Committee and regarded as Ozawa’s right-hand man, told reporters his group will ask Ozawa, who also once served as DPJ chief, as early as next week to declare his candidacy.
Yamaoka said his group will meet again shortly after Thursday’s summer seminar in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, organized by an intraparty group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
Meanwhile in Beijing on Thursday, Hatoyama told reporters it is “a matter of course” for him to support Kan’s re-election.
Ozawa and Hatoyama stepped down in May to take responsibility for their respective political money scandals.
Among other groups, the faction led by Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara will hold a meeting Friday and is expected to confirm its support for Kan.
Kan’s faction plans to refrain from similar activities in an effort to maintain a low profile and avoid a backlash against the prime minister over the party’s setback in last month’s Upper House election, some party lawmakers said.
But Ozawa, who has wielded influence at various turning points in recent political history, remains the focus of attention, analysts say.
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