Hakubun Shimomura, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has told some members of the party that he is ready to run for the LDP presidency, sources have said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s term as LDP president expires at the end of September. The party’s leadership contest is expected to be held on Sept. 29 before a general election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet.
As chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, Shimomura holds one of three key party posts that are meant to support Suga. His move is thus a blow to the prime minister, who hopes to be re-elected.
Shimomura is confident about securing the backing of at least 20 LDP lawmakers, which is necessary to run in a party leadership race, sources said Wednesday.
He belongs to an LDP faction led by former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has influence over the faction, supports Suga’s re-election, and some members of the faction are not enthusiastic about Shimomura’s bid.
It is believed that Suga had initially hoped to dissolve the Lower House right after the end of the Tokyo Paralympics on Sept. 5 for a snap election before the party leadership race. But it is widely seen as difficult for him to dissolve the chamber in September now that he extended the COVID-19 state of emergency until Sept. 12.
The general election must be held in the autumn because the four-year term of the Lower House ends on Oct. 21.
On Wednesday, Jun Azumi, parliamentary affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, met with his LDP counterpart, Hiroshi Moriyama, and demanded that the general election be held by Oct. 21.
The demand came as there is growing speculation that Suga will delay the general election until Nov. 28, the latest possible date under law, to buy time until his public approval ratings improve.
So far, former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi has expressed a willingness to run for the LDP presidency. Executive Acting LDP Secretary-General Seiko Noda is also eager to run.
Younger LDP members may also field a challenger in a political exercise aimed at boosting spirits ahead of the general election.
Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, who ran against Suga in last year’s LDP presidential race, said he wants to join the race “if there is a chance.”
Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, who was also defeated by Suga in the last race, is reluctant about running.
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