Speculation is growing day by day that former Lower House member Shintaro Ishihara may soon announce his candidacy for the Tokyo gubernatorial election in April, which could intensify competition in the already heated race.

The prospect of Ishihara’s entry in the race has sent shudders among leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party, who fear that conservative votes in the metropolis could be further divided.

The LDP is supporting former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi for the election, but Koji Kakizawa, the party’s Lower House member from a Tokyo constituency, is also competing in the race as an independent.

Ishihara, a popular writer who had belonged to the LDP as a Diet member, gathered 2.3 million votes in a 1975 Tokyo gubernatorial election, making him runnerup.

If he runs in the April 11 election, he is expected to win a substantial number of conservative votes that might otherwise go to Akashi or Kakizawa, making matters more complicated for the LDP.

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