The presidential race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party officially began Thursday as Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato and former LDP policy affairs chief Taku Yamasaki filed their candidacies with the party’s election management commission.

Obuchi, who heads the largest faction in the party and has reportedly secured the support of more than two-thirds of LDP Diet members, is almost certain to be re-elected prime minister.

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