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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has launched a full-scale operation to sort out the situation in approximately 10 constituencies where official candidates have yet to be chosen for the House of Representatives election on Oct. 31.

With the inauguration of LDP President and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the departure of Toshihiro Nikai as the party’s secretary-general, a post he held for more than five years, the power balance within the LDP has changed completely.

The Nikai-led faction, which plans to field candidates in six constituencies, contended sharply with the Kishida-led faction for candidate endorsement during the previous Lower House election in 2017. Now the Nikai faction is on high alert as it anticipates the next moves of new LDP executives in the upcoming election.

At a news conference on Tuesday, new Secretary-General Akira Amari said that, in principle, the party will prioritize incumbent Lower House lawmakers when choosing who to endorse in the coming election.

“We will decide (candidates) after listening to the voices of locals and holding comprehensive discussions, including on who is likely to win,” Amari said.

With less than two weeks left until the start of the official campaign period for the Lower House election, the LDP is speeding up preparations to announce its first round of endorsed candidates.

On Tuesday, Toshiaki Endo, chair of the party’s Election Strategy Committee, met with his predecessor, Taimei Yamaguchi, and others at the party’s headquarters to ask about progress on talks in constituencies that currently have several possible LDP candidates.

With the situation complicated, one source within the committee said that the party will not announce in its initial list who it will field as official candidates in the election for such constituencies.

The general focus in the run-up to the election will be on the No. 3 constituency of Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The seat is currently occupied by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, who serves as acting head of Nikai’s faction. Former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, a senior member of the Kishida faction, is considering filing a candidacy, switching from the House of Councilors.

The LDP’s Yamaguchi chapter decided on Friday to back Hayashi as its official candidate.

Speaking to reporters in Ube, Yamaguchi, on Saturday, Kawamura said that even though the LDP’s president and secretary-general have changed, the chapter should prioritize the incumbent member.

The Kishida and Nikai factions also went head-to-head in the No. 2 constituency of Yamanashi Prefecture in the 2017 Lower House election.

Noriko Horiuchi, a member of Kishida’s faction who lost in the single-member constituency but won a seat under the proportional representation system in the 2014 Lower House election, and Kotaro Nagasaki, an independent lawmaker and a special member of Nikai’s faction, fought for official endorsement from the LDP. Nagasaki is now governor of Yamanashi.

In line with party rules, the LDP should have backed Horiuchi. Then Secretary-General Nikai, however, decided that the two would run as independents in the 2017 election, triggering a backlash within the party.

Nikai’s faction has been working to expand its size. That includes by welcoming lawmakers who were originally from opposition parties into the group.

For this year’s general election, incumbent Goshi Hosono, an independent lawmaker who is a special member of Nikai’s faction, and Takeru Yoshikawa, a member of Kishida’s faction who won a seat in the Lower House after the resignation of his predecessor, will battle for the party’s backing in the No. 5 constituency of Shizuoka Prefecture.

Nikai’s faction will also compete for endorsement with the LDP’s biggest faction, led by former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, in the No. 1 constituency in Gunma Prefecture and the No. 2 constituency of Niigata Prefecture.

Regarding the Shizuoka No. 5 constituency, a senior official of the Kishida faction said that the endorsement of Yoshikawa is “a done deal.” The LDP’s executive team is on the faction’s side, the official emphasized.

In the Nikai faction, a junior member said, “We will probably be treated unfavorably (by party executives) as we haven’t behaved ourselves.”

The LDP leadership team faces tough decisions, with a senior official of the faction formerly led by the recently deceased Wataru Takeshita saying, “If the prime minister does what he wants, that will be a problem.”

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