• Kyodo

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Makoto Koga, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, expressed support Saturday for party heavyweight Hiromu Nonaka to succeed Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

“I hope Mr. Nonaka will stay at the pivot of Japan’s administration and work at the top of his ability,” said Koga, the party’s second-in-command after Mori, who is also LDP president.

Koga made the remarks at a meeting in Sapporo of an LDP faction led by Ryutaro Hashimoto, a former prime minister and currently minister for administrative reform.

The 75-year-old Nonaka, a former chief Cabinet secretary and a member of the Hashimoto faction, has said he does not intend to succeed Mori, citing his age.

LDP executives have yet to select someone to replace Mori, who is likely to bow out in the near future.

Mori has expressed his intention to bring forward the LDP presidential election, originally scheduled for September but widely expected to be held in April.

The winner of the election will in all probability become prime minister because the LDP-led coalition commands a majority in the House of Representatives.

Other LDP members who have been mentioned as possible successors to Mori include Nonaka, Hashimoto, former Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and Taro Aso, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy.

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