With a crowded field lining up for the opposition Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, incumbent Sadakazu Tanigaki, seeing declining support, bowed out of the race on Sept. 10.
Tanigaki announced he will not seek re-election at a hastily called news conference at party headquarters in Tokyo.
“We have come one step away to winning back power,” Tanigaki, 67, said, “but the path toward our party rebirth will be obscured, if many people run.”
Tanigaki is believed to have decided that his re-election chances were slim with a number of heavyweight challengers lining up to run. The post is a coveted one with the party leader on track to becoming the next prime minister of Japan if the LDP wins a majority of seats in the next Lower House election.
Tanigaki had hoped to run with the support of Nobuteru Ishihara, LDP secretary-general, the No. 2 party post. But negotiations between the two top party leaders broke down, as Ishihara is intent on being a candidate himself.
“It is not good for two people in the party leadership to run,” Tanigaki said.
Ishihara had planned to announce his candidacy on Sept. 10, but delayed the announcement as Tanigaki was announcing his withdrawal. He looks set to declare his candidacy on Sept. 11.
Tanigaki called for his successor to abide by an agreement the LDP made with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito over the consumption tax rate increase and social security reforms.
“Whoever becomes the next president, I hope the new leader will keep the agreement on track,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shigeru Ishiba, former defense minister and LDP policy chief, formally announced his candidacy for the party presidency at a news conference held in the Diet on the same day.
“I have an important role to play at a time when the future course of the nation is being determined and foreign and security policies are being questioned,” Ishiba said. “I will fulfill the responsibility I have to fulfill.”
Ishiba is expected to seek support from younger LDP members by calling for breaking free of factional maneuvering, which would remove the influence of the party elders.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also expected to announce his candidacy within a few days.
Abe, who served as prime minister from 2006-2007, has been mulling over the appropriate timing for the announcement. He has apparently decided the time is right as he believes he has secured a certain level of support within his party.
Abe is expected to run on his experience as the only former prime minister in the race, and hail his friendly ties with popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Osaka Ishin no Kai party.
Nobutaka Machimura, former chief Cabinet secretary, has already declared his intent to run. Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting LDP policy chief, is also showing eagerness to become the next party leader.
The LDP presidential election will begin on Sept. 14 with the voting and counting to be held on Sept. 26.
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