LDP presidential campaign kicks off as three-horse race

by Masami Ito

Campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race officially kicked off Friday with three candidates vying for the task of rebuilding the party and returning it to power.

The three candidates, who come from different factions in the LDP, represent what is shaping up to be a generational battle of sorts. Ex-Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, 64, is in the running, as is former Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono, 46, and Yasutoshi Nishimura, 46, a relative newcomer who just won his third term. The LDP is set to vote for its new president Sept. 28.

Tanigaki, a 10-term veteran, was the first to throw his hat in the ring and is steadily gathering support from other veteran and midlevel lawmakers.

“We saw the worst defeat in our party’s history (but) I strongly believe that we still have things we need to accomplish for the people,” Tanigaki said Wednesday at LDP headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. “I’ve decided to risk my life for the LDP, to stand at the head to rebuild the party and to build the foundation so that the LDP can regain control of the government.”

Some party members have suggested Tanigaki may represent too much of the “old” LDP, but Tanigaki has stressed that he would line up the “best members” to change it.

“I would like to actively promote younger people and to create more room for women to participate as well,” Tanigaki said. “We need to review the various systems in the party and how the appointments are made . . . or else, we will never be able to become the ruling party again, and even if we did we wouldn’t be able to stay in power.”

Kono, the son of former House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono, strongly called for a “generational change” in party leadership. The outspoken lawmaker has raised concern among party members for his “very extreme” words and actions, a veteran LDP member said.

“The people are angry that there are old politicians in this party, still continuing their old politics,” Kono said. “I don’t intend to change the LDP at all, I plan to rebuild it from scratch, to create a completely new party.”

Nishimura, a member of the largest faction led by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, admits he is the least known of the three. On Wednesday, Nishimura said that the LDP took a step toward change by allowing an unknown lawmaker such as himself to run in the presidential election.

“I am still green, completely inexperienced and obscure and I never dreamed that I would be standing here today” as a candidate for the presidential election, Nishimura said. “I may be unknown, but my resolution to rebuild the LDP, to make Japan a better place is stronger than anybody else’s.”