DPJ-only poll, but of national import


Staff Writer

The Democratic Party of Japan will hold a midterm presidential election Monday to pick a successor to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Among the seven possible candidates, former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who officially announced his candidacy Tuesday, is regarded as the frontrunner. A recent Kyodo survey also shows he is the most popular with the public.

Other DPJ lawmakers expected to run are Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, trade minister Banri Kaieda, farm minister Michihiko Kano and ex-transport minister Sumio Mabuchi. Other hopefuls are ex-Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa and former DPJ Diet affairs chief Shinji Tarutoko.

How is the DPJ going to select a leader from among them?

Following are basic questions and answers on the procedures of the DPJ presidential election.

Who is qualified to run?

According to DPJ regulations, a candidate must be a Diet member and have written recommendations from at least 20 lawmakers, excluding those on the DPJ election committee.

How long is the term of office?

Technically two years after a regularly scheduled DPJ election.

Kan, who is expected to resign next week, has served about 14 months, but only 11 since winning the scheduled DPJ race held last September. He, too, had to win a midterm race when his predecessor abruptly resigned.

Who is eligible to vote?

Because Kan is leaving office before his term ends, only Diet members can cast ballots.

When a party leader serves out a term, every member of the party, including supporters, can help pick the next leader in the presumably scheduled election.

What happens if no candidate receives a majority vote?

DPJ rules mandate a runoff between the top two finishers.

Who is favored to win?

Probably Maehara. He leads a group of 40 Diet members, the most among those who apparently plan to run.

But disgraced, indicted ex-DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa has some 120 allies, and thus his faction could change the equation, although it remains unclear if they have a favorite.

What is the timing for the poll?

If the Diet passes two key bills by Friday, the DPJ will formally announce the election Saturday and voting and vote-counting will take place Monday. Over the weekend, candidates will hold policy debates.

According to Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the DPJ, it’s unusual to give time for debate between the announcement of an election and election day when a party head quits in midterm.

The party tried this time to change in response to criticism from members in 2009 at the lack of debate when a presidential election was held just two days after Yukio Hatoyama announced his resignation.

Opposition set to pounce


Opposition lawmakers are again set to pounce on ex-Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara over his political donations from a foreign national now that he plans to run for the Democratic Party of Japan’s presidency to replace Naoto Kan, who faced a similar confrontation just before March 11.

Maehara “has yet to fulfill accountability” for the donation issue, Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Tuesday.

The Political Funds Control Law bans contributions from foreign individuals to prevent outside influence on politics.

Because Maehara stepped down as foreign minister in March over the donation issue, “we could not sufficiently pursue his responsibility,” said Hiroshige Seko, acting LDP secretary general. “We will grill him through budget committee deliberations.”

The donations were reportedly made by a Korean resident of Japan who goes by a Japanese name.