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Former policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Fumio Kishida signaled his intention Thursday to run in the forthcoming party presidential election.

The leadership race is an “important opportunity to show that the LDP has a wide range of options,” Kishida said in a speech during a meeting of his party faction.

By saying this, Kishida was raising an objection to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s re-election as LDP chief without contest and, at the same time, demonstrating his willingness to seek the top party post again, a critic said.

Kishida lost to Suga in the previous LDP leadership race in September last year, along with Shigeru Ishiba, a former party secretary-general.

At the meeting, many members called on the faction head to run in the next election, expected to be held in September.

“I received many words of encouragement,” Kishida told reporters after the gathering. “I want to accept them with gratitude.”

In a related development the same day, Hakubun Shimomura, incumbent party policy chief, expressed his eagerness to take the helm of the party at a meeting with LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.

“I’ve been thinking what I can do to reconstruct the party and Japan. I want to take on a challenge if there’s a possibility,” Shimomura said.

He also told Nikai that former LDP chief and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Hiroyuki Hosoda, head of a faction where Abe and Shimomura belong, have already been informed of his bid for the party presidency.

Speaking to reporters later, Shimomura said he was confident of winning support from the minimum 20 LDP lawmakers necessary for him to file his candidacy.

But he also revealed that he was unable to win backing from Abe, who has thrown his support behind Suga’s re-election, quoting Abe as saying at the meeting, “It’s not the situation where we can push you right away.”

Also on Thursday, former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi held a meeting with Nikai to inform him of her decision to run in the leadership election.

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