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Maehara retains upper hand in DP leadership race

Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, left, and Yukio Edano, former secretary-general of the largest opposition Democratic Party, shake hands before a debate on the party's leadership race held at the Nippon Press Center in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Aug. 22, 2017. (Mainichi)

Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) is holding onto his lead over the party's former secretary-general Yukio Edano in the final days of the race to elect a new party leader, a Mainichi Shimbun survey indicates.

Maehara and Edano are the only two candidates standing in the Sept. 1 election to replace current leader Renho, who announced she would step down following the DP's poor performance in the July Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.

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 230,000 party members and supporters, while 209 points are allocated to some 1,500 DP assembly members.

Maehara now has the support of 64 would-be candidates in national elections -- up from 56 in the previous survey by the Mainichi. He also has the support of 82 of 142 Diet lawmakers belonging to the party -- unchanged from before. Edano, by comparison, has the support of 25 Diet lawmakers and 22 would-be candidates in national elections -- also unchanged from the previous Mainichi poll.

Maehara has suggested he is thinking of moving away from cooperating with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in elections, and has stressed that Japan should go ahead with a plan to increase the consumption tax to 10 percent in October 2019. He has also left open the option of cooperating with a new party eyed by House of Representatives legislator Masaru Wakasa, who is close to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

Edano, meanwhile, has been disseminating information through Twitter, and is trying to win the backing of party members and supporters. He has said Japan is not in a position to raise its consumption tax considering current economic conditions, and has called for the issuing of debt-covering government bonds with an eye to increasing the wages of care workers, among others. He has suggested a continuation of cooperation with opposition parties including the JCP.

There remain about 50 Diet members and would-be candidates in national elections who have not yet indicated who they will support, and Edano is hoping to make a late comeback. Postal votes from party members, supporters and local assembly members closed on Aug. 30.

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