TOKYO -- The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Aug. 21 decided to hold the voting to elect its new president on Sept. 20, allowing candidates to start campaigning for two weeks from Sept. 7. The race will likely be a face-off between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 63, and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, 61. It will be the first presidential race for the ruling party in six years in which two or more candidates will vie for the party's top position.
The decision about the election schedule was made by the election management committee headed by former home affairs minister Takeshi Noda, and will be finalized by a meeting of the party's General Council.
The party will lower the minimum voting age for party members from 20 to 18. In addition, the minimum duration of party membership payment required to vote will be reduced from two years to one year.
Prime Minister Abe told reporters while golfing in a village of Yamanashi Prefecture west of Tokyo on Aug. 21 that he would like to improve his mental and physical condition "day by day" toward the party presidential race. Abe is expected to announce his candidacy by the end of August.
Meanwhile, Ishiba told reporters inside the Diet Building that he was eager to have policy debate, saying, "It is the responsibility of the ruling party to prepare venues for discussions on all policy areas."
The president will be elected from 405 votes among LDP Diet members and 405 party member votes. A candidate winning more than half of the 810 votes will be the winner. Party member votes are distributed to candidates depending on the number of votes each candidate collected.
Prime Minister Abe is estimated to have already secured about 70 percent of votes from lawmakers. They include 94 members of the Hosoda faction, where the premier belongs, 59 members of the faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, as well as 48 lawmakers of the Kishida faction, 44 from Nikai and 12 from Ishihara factions.
Ishiba has the backing of his own faction comprising 20 Diet legislators and most of the 21 House of Councillor members of the Takeshita faction. Ishiba won more party member votes than the prime minister in the 2012 election, and he expects to repeat the same scenario this time around again.
Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda, 57, also intends to run in the race, but she is having trouble garnering support from 20 lawmakers as required by party bylaws to join the presidential election.
(Japanese original by Yusuke Matsukura, Political News Department)