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PM Abe has upper hand in ruling party presidential election: Mainichi analysis

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is well on his way to winning his third consecutive term in the Sept. 20 ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election against former party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, a Mainichi Shimbun analysis has found.

Abe, 63, is likely to win more than 60 percent of the 405 votes allocated to party followers and 80-plus percent of the same number of ballots held by LDP Diet members. Meanwhile, Ishiba, 61, who was counting on his ability to garner support from party members to overcome Abe, is expected to win only 140 or so votes in that category, based on interviews with senior LDP prefectural chapter officials between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5 and the results of the 2012 party presidential race.

According to the analysis, the prime minister appears to have more party member votes in 28 of the country's 47 prefectures, including his home electoral district of Yamaguchi in western Japan and Fukui and Aichi in central Japan, as well as Wakayama and Shiga in the west, Oita in the south and Chiba east of Tokyo.

Ishiba, who won the largest number of party member votes in the 2012 election, is likely to beat Abe in four prefectures in western Japan, including his local constituency of Tottori, as well as Shimane, Mie and Kochi, but he is still fighting an uphill battle nationwide. There is a close race between the two men in 15 prefectures, such as Iwate and Niigata in the north, Ehime in the west and Saga in the south, and the situation may change in the future.

Meanwhile, among 73 of the 405 LDP Diet members with voting rights who have no political faction affiliations, Abe has secured 55 of the votes, while Ishiba has only six. Along with these unaffiliated lawmakers, the prime minister is backed by 257 members of five key LDP factions, including his base Hosoda faction, and another 29 members of the Takeshita faction. In total, he appears to have locked in 341 votes out of the total 405. In contrast, Ishiba seems to have won the backing of just 48 Diet members, including 22 Takeshita faction members and some unaffiliated legislators.

Shinjiro Koizumi, party chief deputy secretary-general and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and 15 other lawmakers have not decided or indicated for whom they will vote.

LDP members will cast their ballots between Sept. 7 and 19, while Diet members will vote on Sept. 20. Party members' votes will be tallied along with the votes from Diet lawmakers, and allocated to the candidates depending on the numbers of votes they won.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Political News Department)

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