Reformist Junichiro Koizumi made a clean sweep of all eight primaries reporting results Saturday in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race, dramatically increasing his chances of victory Tuesday over early favorite Ryutaro Hashimoto.
An influential member of Hashimoto’s faction in the LDP, which is the party’s largest, said the former prime minister has little chance of defeating Koizumi if the results from the party’s local chapters continue to go against him.
Returns showed that former Health and Welfare Minister Koizumi, 59, won in all eight prefectures in which the LDP’s local chapters counted votes Saturday. The eight were Chiba, Gifu, Niigata, Hyogo, Tokushima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Saga. Hashimoto, who has yet to win a chapter vote, told reporters Saturday evening, “It’s only the beginning. I will fight and do my best until the time is up. That’s all.”
The new LDP president will be picked Tuesday by 141 local representatives — three from each chapter — plus the party’s 346 Diet members. The winner will almost certainly become prime minister considering the LDP-led coalition’s majority in the House of Representatives, which has the final say in picking the nation’s leader.
Sources close to Hashimoto said the former prime minister is expected to receive votes from 145 lawmakers, mostly from his own faction and that of former International Trade and Industry Minister Mitsuo Horiuchi. Hashimoto, 63, is currently minister in charge of administrative reform and Okinawa and Northern Territories issues.
Koizumi is expected to be backed by some 100 lawmakers, mainly from the factions led by outgoing Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, former LDP policy chief Taku Yamasaki and former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato.
A runoff will be held between the two top candidates if no contender wins a majority of the 487 ballots in the first round of voting Tuesday. If a runoff is held between Hashimoto and Koizumi, winning the support of the party’s third-largest faction, led by LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei, one of the four contenders in the race, and Takami Eto, a former head of the Management and Coordination Agency, will be key. The faction has 55 lawmakers.
Kamei on Thursday secured the three votes from the Hiroshima chapter. Kamei, 64, was elected from a Hiroshima constituency.
Koizumi had secured 24 of the 141 chapter votes by Saturday night, while Hashimoto had none. The remaining 38 branches will finalize returns by Monday, LDP officials said.
Koizumi’s victory in the Fukuoka primary has drawn attention because it is the home of the fourth candidate, Taro Aso, and LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga.
Of 38,137 ballots cast in Fukuoka, Koizumi collected 13,959, or 36.7 percent, followed by Aso, who picked up 13,756. Hashimoto and Kamei collected 9,206 and 1,159, respectively. After the results were announced, Aso, the 60-year-old minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, told reporters: “We did a good job by curbing the vote difference to as small as 203. But a loss was a loss.”
Koji Omi, acting LDP secretary general, said the result indicated Koizumi’s popularity. Koizumi served as the nominal leader of the LDP faction led by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori until he quit when the party race kicked off April 11. Omi is a member of the Mori faction.
Koizumi has publicly questioned the party’s faction-led decision-making process and has said he will not join any faction. He suggested Saturday that he may unite with other forces in the election in the event of a runoff, saying: “Everyone shares the policy of promoting structural reform. Coordination is possible.”
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