Top executives of the Liberal Democratic Party formally decided Tuesday to back a former trade ministry official for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Osaka, despite a rebellion from its Osaka chapter, which supports a different candidate. On Tuesday evening, LDP Secretary General Yoshiro Mori secured the consent of all of the party’s election campaign committee members to give the party ticket to Fusae Ota, who announced her candidacy Monday. But many in the party’s Osaka chapter have shown support for Tatsuto Hiraoka, a senior managing director of Osaka-based private-school group Seifu Gakuen. LDP executives in Tokyo claimed that support for Hiraoka is not based on the chapter’s formal decision-making process. “I’m not of the understanding that an overwhelming number of (Osaka LDP members) support Mr. Hiraoka,” Mori told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. The gubernatorial race is to be held Feb. 6 to fill the post left vacant by “Knock” Yokoyama, the comedian-turned-governor who resigned last month and was indicted for molestation of a female election campaign staffer. Earlier Tuesday, Mori met with Ota and officially conveyed the party’s support for her. Ota is also being backed by the Democratic Party of Japan, New Komeito and the Liberal Party, as well as the Japanese Trade Union Confederation and some Kansai-region business circles. Mori told reporters after the meeting that he assured Ota the party will support her on its official ticket despite the Osaka chapter’s position. The party executives also agreed to continue efforts to persuade the Osaka chapter to fall in line behind Ota. Candidates will officially be registered on Jan. 20, when campaigning will begin. In addition to Ota and Hiraoka, Makoto Ajisaka, a former university professor, intends to run on the Japanese Communist Party ticket. Ajisaka ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Yokoyama in last April’s election. Support for the LDP, the DPJ, New Komeito and the Communist Party is estimated to be nearly equal, each expecting to win about 700,000 to 800,000 votes. However, observers say a split LDP could make the outcome unpredictable. In a separate news conference Tuesday morning, Construction Minister Masaaki Nakayama, an Osaka representative, expressed concern that the LDP’s division over the gubernatorial race may have a negative impact on the party’s ruling alliance with New Komeito and the Liberal Party.
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