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PROFILE: Kan, two-time DPJ leader, fighting bureaucracy, disparities+
[April 06, 2006]

PROFILE: Kan, two-time DPJ leader, fighting bureaucracy, disparities+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, April 7_(Kyodo) _ Naoto Kan, who is seeking to make a second comeback as leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, is an activist-turned-lawmaker fighting to slim the nation's bloated bureaucracy and narrow the looming economic disparities in Japan.

Kan, 59, a co-founder of the DPJ who has already headed it twice, decided to run in the party race to save the DPJ from going over "the edge of a cliff," he told a press conference Wednesday in announcing his candidacy for Friday's party leadership election.

Kan appears keen to regain the party presidency after he suffered a razor-thin defeat by Seiji Maehara in the two-man party presidential election in September last year.

Kan's rival in the party election is former Vice DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, who formerly belonged to the dominant Liberal Democratic Party and served as LDP secretary general.

Unlike Ozawa, Kan entered politics as a member of a small opposition party in 1980 after being involved in various civic activities in the 1970s.

Kan shot to fame when he became health minister in 1996 and battled bureaucrats over Japan's first HIV contamination scandals involving the ministry and a now-defunct pharmaceutical firm.

He was then a key member of the multiparty ruling coalition that dethroned the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993.

After the LDP came back to power, Kan formed the DPJ with other anti-LDP lawmakers in April 1998 and served as the first leader until September 1999.

He was elected party leader again in December 2002 but stepped down from the post in May 2004 after coming under fire for not having paid pension premiums in the past.

Kan, now in his ninth term in the House of Representatives and occupying the Tokyo No. 18 constituency seat, is known for his sharp tongue.

He has worked since last fall on forming a civic group offering "opportunities of activity" for the post-World War II baby boomers who will begin to retire in large numbers in 2007.

Called "Dankaito" (baby boomers' party), Kan is inviting male salaried workers in their 50s to join the group and helping them work in communities on improving welfare services and the environment using their expertise and skills and seek seats in local assemblies.

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