Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori will meet the No. 2 man of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday to decide the timing and formula of the party’s presidential election.

The presidential election will decide Mori’s successor as party president and, by extension, prime minister.

At a regular gathering of LDP executives Monday, Mori set up the meeting with LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga to take place after the government unveils an emergency package of economic measures.

The one-on-one meeting gives Koga and Mori the power to make the ultimate decisions on the matter, and the outcome is expected to determine exactly how long the administration of the lame-duck prime minister will last.

“I understand that the prime minister would like to talk about what he has promised to discuss,” Koga told reporters, referring to Mori’s March 10 proposal to move up the next party election, originally slated for September.

The party election is widely expected to come some time after April 20.

Speculation is rife that Mori will make a formal announcement as early as Wednesday that he will not run in the presidential election and that he will effectively step down after bills related to the fiscal 2001 budget clear the Diet.

One scenario has a new Cabinet being inaugurated as soon as April 26.

The winner of the party election will almost certainly become prime minister because the LDP-led coalition holds a majority in the Lower House, which has the final say in selecting the leader.

The LDP executive hopes to elect a new leader in a vote of LDP lawmakers from both Diet houses and representatives from local chapters, according to the LDP officials.

Although there are calls to give voting rights to all rank-and-file party members, the executives do not favor the plan because it would take too much time to organize a vote.

Fierce calls from local chapters to listen to rank and file members are being drowned out by many senior members of the party’s influential factions.

As a compromise, party heavyweights are considering increasing the number of votes from each local chapter from one to three, and allowing local organizations to hold preliminary votes on their own to decide whom to back.

At least 16 local LDP chapters, including those in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, have already decided to hold preliminary votes.

Meanwhile, confusion still reigns over who will stand in the election.

Possible candidates include former LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, former Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the No. 2 man in Mori’s faction, and former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei is also being mentioned as a possible candidate.

Key to the question of who will run is the LDP’s largest faction, headed by Hashimoto. The group, which includes Nonaka, is split over whom to back.

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