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Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008

More candidates lining up for LDP presidential race

Aso declares; Yosano, Koike, Ishihara, Ishiba also angling to run

Staff writer

The field of possible candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election is growing, with various party members scrambling to collect the 20 recommendations needed from LDP lawmakers to run in the race to succeed the incumbent, departing Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Hoping to challenge LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, who officially declared his candidacy Friday morning, are economy minister Kaoru Yosano, former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike and Nobuteru Ishihara, a former LDP policy chief. The trio spent a busy Friday gathering supporters and forming policy platforms.

Friday also saw the emergence of a fifth candidate, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who announced he had succeeded in securing enough support for his bid.

"As of now, I have the names of 20 comrades who have said 'Let's do (something) for the country, for the party and for the people without considering profit and loss,' " Ishiba told a news conference.

Ishiba stressed that he was not throwing his hat in the ring for the sake of gaining recognition.

"I don't think that people should participate in the presidential election just for the sake of it," he said. "Nor do I think participating in the presidential election is a good opportunity to become popular."

Meanwhile, midcareer politicians have also begun testing the water, including Lower House lawmaker Yasufumi Tanahashi and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichita Yamamoto.

But the sudden flood of candidates could trigger criticism that the LDP presidential election is turning into one big performance with too many lead actors and actresses.

Although he announced his candidacy and policy platform Friday, Yamamoto had to admit he still lacked the necessary 20 recommendations.

"I plan to seriously engage in the presidential election," Yamamoto stressed. "I have continued every day thinking that today could be my last day of political activities. There is no way (I am running) just for the sake of name recognition."

Despite the unending surfacing of names, Aso still must be considered the favorite.

At LDP headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Aso said he "will call in the presidential election for reviving the economy and dispelling the concerns of citizens."

"I believe we are not allowed to stop" despite Fukuda's sudden resignation, Aso said. "The mission imposed on me is huge."

The official campaign kickoff is Sept. 10 and the vote will be held on Sept. 22. Whoever is elected president is virtually assured of becoming the next prime minister.


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