Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara decided Tuesday evening to run for the Democratic Party of Japan presidential race to choose a successor to Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Mr. Maehara, sure to become a strong candidate, should present a clear future vision of Japan and a direction it will take because Japan is now steeped in a sense of helplessness.

Five other DPJ lawmakers reportedly have expressed intentions to run so far — Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda, agriculture minister Michihiko Kano, former infrastructure and transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and former environment minister Sakihito Ozawa.

Mr. Noda had been believed to be leading the others. He has been calling for tax increases in the near future to raise funds for the reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and to reform the social welfare system.

He also thinks that the DPJ should form a grand coalition with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. He has the view that wartime leaders designated as Class-A war criminals including the prime minister, Hideki Tojo, should not be regarded as war criminals.

Mr. Maehara, also a former DPJ chief, had left it unclear for some time whether he would run in the race. Since both he and Mr. Noda are graduates of the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a private school established by the late Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the Panasonic group, to incubate future leaders, they have been allies.

Mr. Noda had expected that Mr. Maehara’s group would support him in the DPJ race. But Mr. Maehara’s entry could greatly weaken Mr. Noda’s chances. Mr. Maehara enjoys greater popularity than Mr. Noda in opinion polls. It is reported that Mr. Maehara is particularly skeptical about Mr. Noda’s call for increasing taxes to raise funds for the postdisaster reconstruction.

Regrettably the DPJ leadership candidates are allotted only a few days for their official campaigns for the race. It will be officially kicked off on Aug. 27 and DPJ Lower and Upper House members will vote on Aug. 29.

Even before the official kickoff, candidates should speak up their policies. They should clearly state their position on nuclear power, not to mention economic and diplomatic issues.

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