Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has secured the backing of 14 of the Democratic Party’s prefectural chapters for the DP leadership race, compared with 10 for his sole opponent, ex-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, a survey shows.

But 23, or nearly half of the main opposition party’s chapters, were mum on who they would pick, the survey of prefectural chapter executives showed.

The poll, released Saturday by Jiji Press, was conducted over a five-day period through Friday.

With so many chapters undecided, the battle between Maehara, 55, and the Edano, 53, is expected to heat up.

In the election, votes from the party’s 1,500 local assembly members and 230,000 party supporters and members nationwide account for 440 of the 851-point total. The remainder is allocated to the party’s Diet members and to candidates set to be fielded in national elections.

Maehara appears to be leading Edano among the national lawmakers, with about 80 of the party’s 142 Diet members signaling they support the former foreign minister. But how they actually vote may be affected by the results of the regional election. Those results will be announced before the Diet ranks cast their ballots on Friday.

Of the 14 prefectural chapters that favor Maehara, many said they support his economic and social security policies.

“His policies are realistic,” a Kanagawa prefectural chapter executive said.

Maehara has also garnered the backing of the Iwate, Akita, Gifu, Shizuoka, Shiga, Osaka, Hyogo, Shimane, Okayama, Tokushima, Ehime, Nagasaki and Kyoto chapters, the latter being his home turf.

Chapters endorsing Edano hailed his firm stand against the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“He has a clear vision to counter the ruling Liberal Democratic Party,” said an executive from the chapter in Tochigi Prefecture, where Edano was born.

His other backers include the chapters from Miyagi, Gunma, Toyama, Yamanashi, Mie, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Miyazaki and Saitama prefectures. Saitama is listed as his national electoral district.

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