Seiko Noda, the former executive council chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has indicated she may challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the LDP presidential election to be held on Sept. 20.
But whether Noda, 54, long touted as having the potential to become Japan’s first female prime minister, can garner the support she needs to throw her hat in the ring remains to be seen, and re-election of Abe seems certain at any rate.
“What I feel now is seeing the right thing and not doing it means a lack of courage,” Noda said during a fundraising party held Tuesday in Tokyo, an indication of her intention to file her candidacy to run in the presidential race.
“The LDP has evolved as a conservative party by having a decent presidential election to show diversity,” Noda said in a video clip aired by local stations.
But at the same time, Noda said she was “walking like a (slow) turtle.” The remark was widely interpreted to mean she was having difficulty attracting support and getting the minimum 20 signatures of Diet members required to file her candidacy for the race.
Sept. 8 is the deadline to file. If no other candidate contests the election, Abe will win by default.
Abe has already expressed his intention to run.
Noda, regarded as a moderate liberal, has often criticized Abe’s decision to change the government’s long-standing interpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution and allow the nation to use the right to collective self-defense as defined under the United Nations charter.
All seven internal factions of the LDP have expressed support for Abe, which has made his re-election as LDP president almost certain. Noda does not belong to any faction.
It is believed Noda’s primary goal is to raise her profile as a potential future prime minister, not to win the coming party presidential election.
LDP members in the past have managed to win the party presidency after several attempts.
Before former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won the party’s top spot, he was for a time considered a fringe candidate. He entered the race three times, each time raising his profile as a controversial reformist. Koizumi served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006.
Noda, a former employee at the Imperial Hotel, was first elected to the Lower House in 1993, the same year as Abe.
She was appointed posts and telecommunications minister in 1998 by then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, making her the first woman to serve in the influential position.
Since then, Noda has been regarded as a potential candidate to become prime minister, despite women being a minority in the male-dominated LDP.
Abe tapped Noda as the executive council chairman of the party in December 2012.
After Abe replaced her with Toshihiro Nikai in September 2014, Noda has maintained distance from his right-leaning administration, apparently trying to position herself as a potential rival.
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