Here is a list of the major candidates who could be chosen to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced Wednesday that he would resign after a string of damaging scandals and a humiliating electoral defeat:
Taro Aso, 66. Former foreign minister and currently No. 2 in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Aso, who contested Abe in the party’s leadership race in September 2006, is widely seen as the leading contender for prime minister. Known as an outspoken conservative, Aso also served as internal affairs minister and top planning chief under Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. During his stint as foreign minister, Aso repeatedly irked China by calling it a military threat. Grandson of the late Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, 62. Finance minister under Koizumi and former minister in charge of industrial revitalization. Also ran against Abe in the LDP leadership race. A lawyer before entering government, Tanigaki has stressed the need to repair relations with neighbors China and South Korea.
Yasuo Fukuda, 71. After serving as the government’s top spokesman, Fukuda was one of the leading contenders along with Abe, Aso and Tanigaki to replace Koizumi. But he dropped out before the formal race, citing his age. Son of former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, he worked in a petroleum company and later served as political secretary to his father. Known as a foreign policy dove, Fukuda has argued for closer ties with China and opposes visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni Shrine.