The Liberal Democratic Party will hold its long-awaited presidential election on April 24 to select the successor to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga said Thursday.
The LDP’s largest faction has decided, however, not to field former LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, a potentially strong candidate for the presidential race, an influential member of the group told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The decision is expected to lead the faction, which is led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, to support Hashimoto if it does not back another candidate.
As for the election, Koga, the LDP’s No. 2 man, said at a meeting of the party’s election committee that he and Mori had agreed on the date during a one-on-one meeting Wednesday.
With many local chapters planning to hold preliminary elections on April 21 and 22, he said, April 24 is the only possible date to hold the presidential election.
The election committee agreed to hold a plenary meeting Tuesday for LDP Diet members to officially approve the date and procedures of the election. The party will also hold a nationwide meeting of its secretaries general the same day.
Following the election, a new Cabinet is expected to be formed as early as April 26, LDP sources said. A date for filing candidacies was not discussed in Thursday’s meeting, according to Kazuo Tanikawa, head of the election committee.
Mori said last month that he will move forward the LDP presidential election from September, paving the way for him to resign as the nation’s leader and the head of the LDP.
The winner of the LDP presidential election will almost certainly become prime minister because the LDP-led coalition holds a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, which has the final say in selecting the nation’s leader.
Calls for Hashimoto, a former prime minister, to run are mounting in the largest LDP faction, which he heads. But the group, which holds the key to the race, has been split over whether to back Hashimoto or Nonaka.
Nonaka himself repeated Thursday that he does not plan to run. “That is impossible,” he said. “I had supported LDP President Yoshiro Mori as secretary general. I am not considering, not in the slightest degree, to stand as a candidate.”
A meeting will be held as early as next week to reach a final decision on whom the faction will support.
Former Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the nominal head of the LDP’s Mori faction, received a boost from senior officials of the group in a meeting Thursday. “Many said he should run, and he himself is eager to,” Masajuro Shiokawa, a senior Mori faction member, told reporters after the gathering.
During a meeting of his faction Thursday, former Trade Minister Mitsuo Horiuchi also expressed his willingness to run, reportedly saying, “I am prepared to run in the race to present my policy goals before the public. I’m ready to fight and work earnestly,” a faction member quoted Horiuchi as saying during the talks.
LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei suggested Wednesday that he may also run, while the names of Taro Aso, minister of economic and fiscal policy, and Justice Minister Masahiko Komura were also floated.
Mori, who marked one year in office on Thursday, agreed to bring the party race forward after coming under heavy pressure to step down over a string of gaffes as well as scandals involving the LDP.
Ruling bloc lawmakers had been calling for Mori to resign out of concern they will take a beating in July’s Upper House election if the unpopular prime minister stays on. While Mori made his plan to resign official in a meeting with top LDP leaders on Wednesday, he has yet to make a public statement.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday that the prime minister will make a public announcement when the time comes. “I think there will be an opportunity for that in the future,” he said.
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