Kan, Ozawa in Tight Race for DPJ Leadership

TOKYO -- With less than two weeks remaining before the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's leadership election, local polls show that Prime Minister Naoto Kan and challenger Ichiro Ozawa are locked in a tight race to win support from their own party members.

The nation is closely watching the election, because the winner will almost automatically become the next prime minister, with the DPJ holding a majority in the more powerful House of Representatives.

Among the DPJ's 412 Diet members--in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors--neither Kan nor Ozawa has a majority support yet, with dozens still undecided on who they will vote for.

In the Mainichi Shimbun daily's poll, Ozawa is a little ahead in the race with expected support from 185 of the party's Diet members, compared with 164 for Kan. The survey showed that both Ozawa and Kan have 122 "definite" supporters each. On top of those, Ozawa has 63 "likely" supporters, while Kan has 42.

The situation remains uncertain, however, as 63 of the party's Diet members said they hadn't yet decided who to vote for.

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