Former Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday endorsed the idea of pushing up the date of the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race, originally scheduled for late September.

“As long as it will not disturb the schedule for the next extraordinary session, which may be held this fall, I think the election can be held earlier,” Koizumi said during a Tokyo speech.

Koizumi, who belongs to an LDP faction led by Secretary General Yoshiro Mori, indicated he still opposes the idea of holding the LDP’s presidential election as early as June or July, but added that the race does not necessarily have to wait until late September when the current term of the LDP president expires.

Within the LDP, forces hoping to re-elect Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi as head of the party have been calling for the presidential race to be held early so that possible contenders, including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Kato and Taku Yamasaki, former head of the LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council, will not have enough time to prepare.

Koizumi, who is close to Kato and Yamasaki, declined to comment on whether they should run against Obuchi in the upcoming presidential race.

“If they have policies that appeal to the Japanese public, they should run in the election. I shouldn’t say whether they should run or not,” he said.

As for the timing of the next general election, which must be held before October 2000, Koizumi only said that Obuchi’s decision is a highly political one.

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