Tokyo, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Tuesday finalized a fresh voting process to elect its new leader and effectively the country’s next prime minister that can favor the government’s spokesperson Yoshihide Suga to succeed Shinzo Abe who has decided to step down on health grounds.
The decision was taken at an LDP leadership meeting, four days after Abe announced his intention to resign as the party leader and prime minister.
At the LDP general council meeting, the date on which the vote to elect a new leader will take place was yet to be determined, although different sources say that it will be in the middle of September.
Normally, the leader of the party is elected by an assembly composed of the party’s lawmakers, regional leaders, and representatives of the members, who meet every three years to make the appointment. But the new system has reduced the representation.
The LDP decided that only its 394 MPs and three representatives from each of the 47 prefectures, totaling 535 votes, will be in charge of electing the new party leader.
Among the frontrunners for the post include former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 63, who has attempted on three occasions, albeit unsuccessfully, to challenge Abe’s power. He has made no secret of his intention to fight for the newly available post.
Ishiba is one of those in favor of choosing the party’s next leader using the system of maximum representation.
Another vying for the post is Fumio Kishida, 63, former foreign minister and the party’s policy chief, and one of the few who at some point was mentioned by Abe as a possible successor. But he enjoys scant support in the polls.
There is also Defense Minister and former Foreign Minister Taro Kono, 56.
Suga, 71, who has been Abe’s right-hand man, has not formally confirmed his candidacy. But political sources are confident that he will join the race since he has held various meetings to garner the support.
The announcement of the leadership voting system was made at a press conference by the legislator and chairman of the LDP’s general council, Shunichi Suzuki.
It is expected that the party will announce the voting date on Wednesday. The LDP will seek approval from the Diet between Sep 16-18.
According to Suzuki, by discarding the election system with a larger number of political representatives, the process is reduced by about two months to appoint a new prime minister as soon as possible. EFE-EPA