Former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda announced Thursday she will run in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race, making a last-minute bid for party president as the campaign gets set to kick off Friday.

Noda’s candidacy is expected to split votes that could have gone for vaccine chief Taro Kono and make it harder for any candidate to win a majority in the first round of voting.

In the past few weeks, Noda has been knocking on the doors of party lawmakers, asking them to become a supporter for her bid.

"Although each candidate has a variety of wonderful policies, it was difficult to find policies that would inspire the vulnerable, something which I have devoted my work to as a politician,” Noda said. “What Japan needs from now on is diversity. I’d like to work on conservative policies that will meet the values of women, children, the elderly and individuals with disabilities."

Noda tried unsuccessfully to run for LDP president in 2015, 2018 and 2020, each time failing to gather the required 20 supporters.

Noda comes from a political family, with her late grandfather, LDP bigwig Uichi Noda, having served as construction minister. Noda first served as Gifu Prefectural Assembly member before being elected as a Lower House lawmaker from a Gifu electoral district in 1993.

Noda failed to get a party endorsement in the 2005 Lower House election due to her opposition to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s privatization of postal services. Despite an uphill election, she retained her seat in her constituency as an independent.

With the blessing of the next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, she rejoined the LDP a year later in 2006.

Noda made headlines when she gave birth to her son in 2011 through artificial insemination at the age of 50 following years of infertility treatment.

In an interview with The Japan Times in December, Noda welcomed the government’s move last year to boost insurance coverage for infertility, saying she has been pushing to improve accessibility to such treatment for years.

“I wasn’t even able to say it out loud that I was going through (infertility treatment) and I felt as if I were doing something you just don’t tell people about,” she said.

LDP veteran lawmaker Seiko Noda at party headquarters on Thursday  | KYODO
LDP veteran lawmaker Seiko Noda at party headquarters on Thursday | KYODO

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