Abe states he’ll declare on Friday

by Hiroko Nakata

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe has moved closer to throwing his hat into the ring for the Sept. 20 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, announcing he will publicly declare his candidacy Friday for the race, the winner of which becomes the prime minister.

Abe said Wednesday that he will make the announcement in Hiroshima at an LDP convention for western Japan. Abe represents Yamaguchi Prefecture in the House of Representatives.

He is expected to hold a news conference afterward.

It is the first time Abe has said he will run for the presidency of the ruling party, even though he is already being called the front-runner to take over from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Abe made the announcement after meeting with three former prime ministers — Yoshiro Mori, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Toshiki Kaifu — to ask for their backing.

“I visited them ahead of Sept. 1, when I will express my intention to run in the election,” Abe told reporters.

The leadership hopefuls will file their candidacies Sept. 8. But all eyes will be on the Hiroshima convention as Abe and the two other contenders — Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki — are expected set out their campaign platforms.