Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba signaled on Thursday his intention to run in the Liberal Democratic party leadership race in September as a challenger to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We should have an election (in which candidates face off),” Ishiba said, adding that there is “no point at all” in running if there is no challenge to the status quo.
His remarks, made at a meeting of editorial writers at media organizations subscribing to Kyodo News, were seen as expressing his determination to run against Abe, who is serving his second term as the LDP leader.
The LDP leadership election needs to be held before Abe’s three-year term ends on Sept. 30. Among potential candidates, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said earlier this week he would not run and would instead support the prime minister.
Abe, 63, has yet to say whether he will file his candidacy. But the September race is widely expected to be a battle between the arch rivals. Ishiba was defeated in the 2012 LDP leadership contest that paved the way for Abe’s second return to power.
“I have my own responsibility to clearly state my stance,” Ishiba, 61, said. But he did not specify when he would officially announce his candidacy, saying that more time is needed to prepare campaign pledges that can counter arguments.
The former defense chief said a candidate needs to express views on a range of issues, from diplomacy and security to social security, adding that the governance of the LDP should be a focus of the election.
Ishiba, who once served as LDP secretary-general, expressed his intention to take a fresh look at how the ruling party has been run under the Abe administration.
“The LDP should not be a party that is arrogant and looks down on fellow lawmakers,” Ishiba said.
Abe has seen public support for his Cabinet drop from the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen cronyism scandals. Still, he is widely favored to win his third term as LDP chief, which would make him Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.