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Japan opposition leadership election begins with 4 hopefuls

Edano's successor to lead Constitutional Democratic Party in upper house race

The candidates in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leadership race, left to right -- Chinami Nishimura, Kenta Izumi, Junya Ogawa, Seiji Osaka -- will battle to succeed Yukio Edano.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Campaigning in the leadership election of Japan's largest opposition party started Friday, with four candidates joining the race to lead the party after its defeat in the recent general election.

The candidates for the Nov. 30 election of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan are Seiji Osaka, 62, a former prime ministerial special adviser, Junya Ogawa, 50, a former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, CDPJ policy chief Kenta Izumi, 47, and Chinami Nishimura, 54, a former senior vice minister of health, labor and welfare.

The contest follows Yukio Edano's announcement that he is resigning as leader after the CDPJ's poor showing in the Oct. 31 House of Representatives election, in which the party secured 96 seats in the lower chamber, down 14 from before the election, despite joining hands with other opposition parties.

"I want to stand in the forefront so the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan can be of help to the people," said Osaka at a ceremony to start his campaign.

Ogawa said he will seek to create a leading opposition force that can be recognized as an alternative to the current government, adding he will try to "expand our support base by reaffirming our stance as a liberal party."

Izumi said the CDPJ needs to be reformed so it can be trusted by voters, while Nishimura said she had decided to run to realize "a politics that supports and helps people in difficult situations."

Whoever is elected will be tasked with reforming the party and leading it into the House of Councillors election next summer, with the focus on whether the CDPJ will continue to align with other opposition forces, including the Japanese Communist Party, to jointly back single candidates against the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party.

Izumi has the backing of an intraparty group that he leads with political veteran Ichiro Ozawa, while Osaka comes from the liberal faction that is the largest force in the party. Nishimura is backed by a group led by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and Ogawa has won endorsements from supporters of Hiroshi Ogushi, who has decided not to run in the race.

CDPJ Diet members will cast ballots at an extraordinary party meeting, while local assembly and rank-and-file members will vote online or by mail by Nov. 29. If no candidate wins a majority of points in the voting, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders.

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