Factional politics once again have come to the forefront of the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election with reports Wednesday that Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe has secured the support of two faction leaders and is a virtual shoo-in.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Makoto Koga and former industry minister Toshihiro Nikai, two faction chiefs who have been tight-lipped on who they will support, told LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe earlier this month they will back Abe, party sources said.

If all members vote with the two leaders, Abe’s vote tally would reach about 230 of the 403 LDP Diet members, according to a Kyodo News tally.

LDP members who hold Diet seats are eligible to vote in the Sept. 20 election to choose a successor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and there are also 300 votes given to local party chapters.

Most members of the two factions, lead by Koga together with former welfare minister Yuya Niwa and by Nikai, are expected to follow their leaders.

The sources said Koga told LDP policy chief Hidenao Nakagawa it was important for the party to show a united front during the party poll to help it win in nationwide local-level public elections next year.

“Abe’s dominance has been consolidated. We have to be united behind the new party president in the runup to unified local elections next year,” the sources quoted Koga as saying.

As of Monday, Abe had garnered support from more than 180 LDP lawmakers, including members of his faction — the party’s largest, led by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori — as well as midcareer and junior lawmakers in other factions.

Abe also has been gaining ground among veterans. Six of the 10 senior party members who met with Abe on Tuesday to discuss his vision for the next administration were backing other people or had not come out in support of anyone.

Meanwhile, a considerable number of lawmakers in the LDP’s second-largest faction, headed by former welfare minister Yuji Tsushima, are reluctant to support their faction member, Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga, despite his announcement Monday that he is interested in running.

Abe has not yet said publicly whether he will run.

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