Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Thursday he has no intention of preventing more than one person from the Liberal Democratic Party faction he heads from running in September’s election for the LDP presidency.

The remark was widely viewed as a green light for both Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, two faction members rumored as key candidates to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, to throw their hats into the ring.

“I have never said I want to ensure that only one person runs (from our faction),” Mori said at a weekly meeting of the LDP’s largest faction. “If in reality, party members think the two best candidates are (Abe and Fukuda), isn’t that a good thing?”

LDP factions have traditionally each put up just one candidate for presidential races, and past party presidents have relied heavily on the strength of their factions to maintain power.

Koizumi, who is originally from the Mori faction, has been critical of this practice and has actively worked to reduce the power of factions.

During the meeting, Mori also lashed out at the media for “creating” an image that he and Koizumi are at odds over how the election should proceed.

Mori stressed that he has not taken sides on the issue, pointing out that he considers Abe like a son and Fukuda a true friend.

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