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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is preparing to replace the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s powerful No. 2 leader, Toshihiro Nikai, ahead of this autumn’s House of Representatives election, sources said Monday.

Suga met with LDP Secretary-General Nikai at the prime minister’s office the same day to convey his plan to replace party executives including Nikai, the sources added.

The embattled prime minister may carry out the shake-up before the Sept. 17 candidacy filings for the party’s Sept. 29 presidential election to drum up support for his re-election bid, according to the sources.

At Monday’s meeting, Nikai said he accepts Suga’s plan to reshuffle the LDP leadership team. But members of Nikai’s faction may oppose his replacement, possibly dealing a blow to Suga’s bid.

Nikai paved the way for Suga’s victory in the previous LDP presidential election in September last year. He announced his support for Suga ahead of other party bigwigs, who quickly followed Nikai to back Suga.

This time again, Nikai declared his support for Suga’s re-election before others, promising to form a consensus on the matter in his faction.

Nikai is the party’s longest-serving secretary-general, having passed the five-year mark earlier this month.

But LDP lawmakers critical of Nikai are increasing. They complain of Nikai’s high-handed approach to party management, dubious use of party funds and personnel decisions that look unfair.

Recent media opinion polls show that public support ratings for Suga’s Cabinet have fallen to the lowest levels since his inauguration in September last year.

Some in the LDP say that part of the poor performance reflects criticism of Nikai.

Former LDP policy leader Fumio Kishida, who announced his candidacy in the party race last week, has proposed limiting the maximum length of tenures for party executives excluding the president to three consecutive one-year terms.

Kishida made the proposal in an apparent bid to attract support from party members critical of Nikai.

Aides to Suga say that he should revamp the leadership team ahead of the party poll in order to make Kishida’s key election proposal meaningless.

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