• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to be re-elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September without opposition after the man seen as his greatest potential rival decided not to run, an LDP executive said Thursday.

Shigeru Ishiba, minister for regional revitalization, seen as the potential biggest rival in the race, has told people close to him that he will not run, the LDP official said.

“I am now doing the best I could do as a Cabinet minister of the Abe administration,” said Ishiba during a regular news conference. “There is nothing more I have to say.”

In the previous election in September 2012 Ishiba secured the majority of votes cast by LDP rank and file members in the initial round of voting. Abe beat him in the runoff race in which only LDP legislators voted.

If re-elected, Abe would be in position to remain the LDP leader through September 2018.

Among other likely contenders, Seiko Noda, a veteran female lawmaker who has held key posts in past LDP governments, has indicated she would not challenge Abe.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is not making any preparations to run, LDP officials say.

Abe has already garnered support from key factions of the LDP for his re-election.

Ishiba has to date not indicated any intention to run for LDP president, saying he would work as a Cabinet minister for the success of the Abe administration’s economic policies dubbed “Abenomics.”

At a separate news conference, Finance Minister Taro Aso, who also serves as deputy prime minister, said it was preferable for a challenger to emerge rather than having Abe re-elected without a vote.

“It’s a good opportunity for various people to voice their opinions,” Aso said. “It’ll be better if we had a presidential election.”

At a meeting Thursday, the LDP’s election committee decided to determine the LDP leadership race at its next meeting on Aug. 28.

The committee initially planned a Sept. 20 election, with an official announcement on Sept. 8. But Sept. 26 and 27 have emerged as possible dates for voting, depending on Diet deliberations.

Abe’s current term as the LDP president expires at the end of September.

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