The seniority-based ethos in the Liberal Democratic Party is under threat, with the party leaders putting an upper age limit on the selection of some candidates for the next House of Representatives election.

The LDP, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, made a rule in March that it will not select people aged over 73 as official candidates under the proportional representation segment of the election.

But some LDP heavyweights say certain veterans should be exempted from the rule, given their achievements for both the party and the nation.

Among such graybeards are two former prime ministers, Yasuhiro Nakasone, 85, and Kiichi Miyazawa, 83.

A rift over the age issue has developed in the LDP, with some junior members who plan to run in the expected general election on Nov. 9 voicing concern about the challenge from the Democratic Party of Japan, which is promoting its youth.

DPJ President Naoto Kan, 56, recently said that the average age of the party’s lawmakers is less than his age.

The reform-minded Koizumi, 61, is expected to try to talk the veterans out of seeking re-election, before campaigning for the Lower House poll starts later this month, an LDP source said.

On Thursday, Koizumi dined with Nakasone and Miyazawa in the Ginza district of Tokyo, with speculation rife that they talked about the rule.

Koizumi is expected to dissolve the Lower House on Friday and call for a general election on Nov. 9.

As the poll draws near, all eyes are on LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe, 49, to see whether he can persuade his party colleagues to push through the rule without allowing exceptions.

Koizumi appointed Abe to the LDP’s No. 2 post in a party leadership shakeup last month. Abe’s predecessor, Taku Yamasaki, is 66.

“The public support rating of the Cabinet would rise by 5 percentage points if Abe manages to give up the old guys,” said a senior lawmaker within the LDP’s election strategy office.

But Mitsuo Horiuchi, who heads the party’s decision-making General Council, told reporters recently, “It is reasonable for us to give special treatment to our colleagues who formerly served as prime ministers.”

Horiuchi, 73, is not affected by the age limit because he was elected from a single-seat constituency.

The 480 Lower House members are elected under two systems — 300 from single-seat constituencies and 180 by proportional representation.

Candidates seeking proportional representation seats need the official support of the party leaders.

Under this system, ballots are cast not for individuals but for parties. Each party ranks candidates on its list before voting is held, with the winners declared from the top of the list based on the number of votes the party gets.

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