Japan's leadership race takes a turn as underdog receives kingpin's backing

21:40, June 03, 2010      

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Japanese ruling party lawmaker Shinji Tarutoko greets other politicians during a meeting at the lower house lawmakers' offices in Tokyo June 3, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

Top Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) executives decided Thursday to support underdog Shinji Tarutoko, a relatively unknown lawmaker from Japan's ruling DPJ in his leadership race against Naoto Kan, the party's finance minister, who was thought to be a shoo-in for the DPJ's top post.

Lawmakers close to outgoing Secretary-General Ozawa decided to support Tarutoko's leadership run tomorrow following an executive meeting at which it was decided the DPJ needs to present itself in a new light and with a new "clean" image, sources close to the matter said, meaning it is possibly no longer a one-horse-race for the leadership.

Speaking in a nationally televised news conference Tarutoko reiterated his plans to stand as a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who abruptly announced his intention to resign after eight months in office on Wednesday.

"I want the DPJ to have a fresh start and the people of Japan to have high hopes for the party," said Tarutoko.

"As prime minister I would seek to reduce the number of lawmakers in the Diet by 80 and seek a new direction for politics in Japan."

"Mr. Hatoyama paid a large price over his decisions regarding the Futenma relocation issue and I will abide by the agreement made with the U.S., however, I will work hard to make changes to the Okinawa situation in the long term," he said.

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