TOKYO: Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Thursday to hold its leadership election Sept. 29.
The decision was made at a meeting of the party’s presidential election administration committee, held at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo. The election comes as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s term as head of the party expires at the end of September.
The leadership race, set to officially kick off Sept. 17, is closely watched as the victor will serve as the face of the party in the following House of Representatives general election. Suga is unlikely to dissolve the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, before the LDP poll.
Suga has declared his intent to seek re-election in the presidential poll. Former party policy chief Fumio Kishida is expected to launch a challenge Thursday, after he and another candidate were defeated by Suga in the September 2020 party leadership election.
Current party policy chief Hakubun Shimomura and former internal affairs and communications minister Sanae Takaichi have also shown interest in throwing their hats into the ring, and are each rushing to secure support from at least 20 LDP lawmakers needed to file a candidacy.
“I have secured (the necessary supporters), but it is important to gain the understanding of more people,” Shimomura told reporters in Tokyo Thursday.
“Our party has been working hard (to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic), but there are many things that are insufficient,” Shimomura said of his current role in the fight against the virus.
The LDP will allow rank-and-file party members to vote in the presidential election, after limiting voters in last year’s election amid the pandemic. The party plans to conduct debates among candidates online while avoiding in-person public speeches in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.