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Ex-Foreign Minister Maehara leading in Democratic Party leadership election

Seiji Maehara, left, and Yukio Edano wave at people on the streets of Sapporo's Chuo Ward, on Aug. 25, 2017. (Mainichi)

Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who is running in the race to elect a new leader of the largest opposition Democratic Party on Sept. 1, appears to have the upper hand over the party's former secretary-general Yukio Edano, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The Mainichi Shimbun polled senior officials of the DP's prefectural chapters on prospective votes by local assembly members, party members and supporters, and researched trends among Diet lawmakers as well as those planning to run in national elections on a DP ticket, and analyzed the situation. The leadership election will be held based on a "point" system, in which 2 voting points are given to each Diet lawmaker (a total of 284 points) and 1 point to each would-be candidate in national elections (a total of 127 points). Another 231 points are allotted to the roughly 229,000 party members and supporters, while 209 points are allocated to some 1,500 DP assembly members -- with points awarded in proportion to the number of votes.

Maehara has secured support from five out of the eight main factions within the party, with 82 out of 142 Diet lawmakers, mainly conservatives, committed to voting for the former foreign minister on Sept. 1. In addition, 56 of 127 scheduled to run in national elections on a DP ticket have said they would vote for Maehara in the leadership election. He also will likely outnumber Edano by a small margin in the votes by party members, supporters and local assembly lawmakers, possibly winning the majority of the 851 points available.

Meanwhile, Edano, who is backed by mostly liberal lawmakers including a group led by former agriculture minister Hirotaka Akamatsu, has secured votes from 25 Diet lawmakers. Among would-be candidates in national elections, 22 support Edano. With regard to votes by party members, supporters and local assembly lawmakers, he is leading in Saitama Prefecture, his constituency, and other areas including Mie Prefecture and Hokkaido.

While Maehara appears to have the upper hand among Diet lawmakers, Edano is also doing well among local assembly members, DP members and supporters. The outlook for the race could flip depending on how well Edano does in other prefectures. A senior official of the party's Kagoshima prefectural chapter says Maehara is "a candidate who would not cause a split in the party," while a senior member of the Kumamoto prefectural chapter says Edano "has a large support base centering on former union members."

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