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Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008
Ishihara fifth to enter race for LDP presidency
Son of outspoken governor: 'I don't have an ounce of self-interest'
By MASAMI ITO
Nobuteru Ishihara on Tuesday became the fifth Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker to throw his hat in the ring for the LDP presidency in the wake of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation announcement last week.
"In the vanguard to destroy old systems and distorted values, I would like to fight to the end with my comrades," Ishihara said at the news conference to announce his candidacy. "In this presidential election, I, Nobuteru Ishihara, do not have an ounce of self-interest."
Ishihara, 51, a former LDP policy chief, is the oldest son of outspoken Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. The elder Ishihara sought the LDP presidency in 1989, losing to Toshiki Kaifu.
When his father was running for the top spot, Ishihara was a reporter at NTV.
"I covered (his candidacy) from the world of journalism," he said.
"This is the first time I truly understood the hardships (my father went through)."
Having served as administrative reform minister and transport minister under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Ishihara is considered policy-oriented.
He ruled out raising the consumption tax in the near future and promised to stick to the government's goal of reaching a budget surplus on a primary balance basis in fiscal 2011.
The campaign kicks off Wednesday, with LDP Secretary General Taro Aso considered the front-runner. Challenging him are economy minister Kaoru Yosano, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike and Ishihara.
With a crowded field debating policies, the LDP hopes to differentiate itself from its opposition rival, the Democratic Party of Japan, whose leader, Ichiro Ozawa, was given a third term as president Monday when no one challenged him.
Ishihara criticized the DPJ for letting Ozawa go unopposed and failing to hold policy discussions.
He said the LDP faced a similar situation regarding Aso immediately after Fukuda's sudden resignation announcement Sept. 1.
"I could feel the LDP's energy concentrating on Aso, a very popular politician," Ishihara said. "With that flow early on, I felt a sense of crisis that (the LDP) would be just like the DPJ."
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichita Yamamoto, who held a news conference last Friday to announce his intention to run, reportedly gave up his bid after he was unable to collect the necessary 20 recommendations from LDP lawmakers.
The situation also looks difficult for Yasufumi Tanahashi, another midcareer LDP Lower House lawmaker who likewise expressed interest in running.
Aso and Ishiba declared their candidacies Friday, while Koike and Yosano announced theirs Monday. All five candidates are expected to hold a joint news conference Wednesday.
Economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano unveiled his policy pledges Tuesday for the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential race but soft-pedaled the consumption tax rate hike he has long advocated.
Yosano is one of the few politicians to publicly support a rise in the unpopular tax, arguing that doing so is necessary to cover growing social welfare costs.
But with the LDP election looming on Sept. 22, Yosano has grown vague on the matter of future tax rates.
"I think it is probably impossible to have a discussion by just focusing on one kind of tax, the consumption tax," said Yosano, who announced his candidacy Monday.
Various factors, including the state of social security and other kinds of revenue like corporate and income taxes, must also be taken into consideration, Yosano told a news conference.
He added that although the goal of achieving a surplus in the primary balance in fiscal 2011 appears difficult, the government must not give up trying as a means to rebuild fiscal soundness.
"At this point, we cannot give up the goal," he said.
His other proposals include cutting the number of civil servants and politicians, improving the nation's food self-sufficiency rate to 50 percent in 10 years and reducing highway tolls to half or eliminating them altogether in some areas.
Asked how he would handle the abduction issue with North Korea, Yosano said Japan has to keep talking and keep up the pressure in concert with China and the U.S.