Former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei officially declared Wednesday that he will run in the Sept. 20 party presidential election, seeking to unseat Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Kamei, the outspoken coleader of a 59-member intraparty faction within the Liberal Democratic Party, promised to pursue an economic policy diametrically opposed to Koizumi’s.
He is advocating a fiscal spending package worth tens of trillions of yen in an effort to boost demand.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, who heads a 16-member minor LDP faction, reiterated plans to challenge Koizumi if he can secure endorsements from 20 party members, as required by election rules.
Komura declined to say whether he had already secured this number, merely stating he is “neither optimistic or pessimistic” on his prospects of clearing the minimum requirement.
Hopefuls must register their candidacies on Monday.
In addition to Kamei and Komura, former transport minister Takao Fujii, a member of a faction led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, has expressed plans to run. Fujii has already been endorsed by 20 party members.
Kamei is one of Koizumi’s most vocal critics and has railed against the prime minister’s policies of fiscal discipline and tougher inspections of ailing financial institutions.
He told reporters that if he were to be elected LDP chief and prime minister, he would implement policies that are “just the opposite from those of Koizumi.”
He called for a total stimulus package worth between 30 trillion yen and 50 trillion yen. He also said he would increase the size of the policy-related government budget by 5 percent to 10 percent annually for three years, beginning in fiscal 2004.
“I have kept saying that the current economic policies have been all wrong,” Kamei said.
Kamei’s calls for aggressive fiscal spending echo the views of many LDP lawmakers, particularly those elected from ailing rural constituencies with dwindling populations.
But Kamei, often depicted by the media as symbolizing the party’s old pork-barrel politics, is believed to be unpopular among urban voters.
It is thought that Kamei is trying to prevent Koizumi from winning a majority in the first-round of voting on Sept. 20, forcing a runoff in which anti-Koizumi candidates can consolidate their support.
“It is only natural for anti-Koizumi candidates to take joint action” in a runoff, Kamei told the reporters.
For Kamei, fiscal soundness means little before pump-priming measures to expand domestic demand, which he says is urgent in terms of saving the nation’s rural economies.
In a recently published book, Kamei even proposed that the government should unconditionally give away 4 million yen in cash to everyone 70 or older. He claimed this measure would “only cost about 12 trillion yen to 13 trillion yen.”
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