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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fukuda not to run in LDP presidential poll

Staff writer

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, a Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight and one of four prospective candidates for the Sept. 20 party presidential election, told reporters Friday he has decided against joining the race.

Fukuda's move, although widely expected, is likely to boost Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe's chances of winning the election.

Whoever wins the party election is certain to become prime minister because the LDP has a majority in the Lower House of the Diet.

Asked about the reason, Fukuda, who was seen as the second most popular hopeful after Abe to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, first cited his age, 70.

"I'm too old for that," Fukuda said to reporters who gathered at his Tokyo home Friday night after the news, attributed to an unnamed Fukuda aide, broke.

In addition to his age, Fukuda hinted his decision stemmed from fear of a possible foreign policy rift with Abe over visits to Tokyo's contentious war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

Asked if his candidacy would have made Yasukuni Shrine a major policy issue in the upcoming presidential race, Fukuda indicated he didn't want that to happen.

Fukuda has argued for rebuilding friendly relations with Japan's Asian neighbors, especially China and South Korea. In contrast, Abe is known for his hardline stance toward North Korea and China.

Many in political circles speculated that Fukuda's candidacy would have seriously split the LDP faction led by former prime minister Yoshiro Mori. Both Fukuda and Abe belong to the Mori faction, as did Koizumi.

Touching on Abe's foreign policy stance, Fukuda said, "It often occurs that politicians have different views" even though they belong to the same group.

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The Japan Times

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