The battle for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ramped up Thursday after former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced his intention to run for the top position, presenting the most serious challenge yet to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s re-election bid.

“Our democracy is facing a crisis, as people’s trust in politics is broken,” Kishida said. “I decided to run in the race to demonstrate that the LDP is a party that is capable of listening to people’s voices and providing a variety of choice — and to protect our country’s democracy.”

Although Suga still has the upper hand, Kishida’s emergence underscores the anxiety within the LDP over the Cabinet’s rapidly sinking popularity ahead of an important Lower House election that will be held sometime this autumn.