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Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012

Tanigaki out, Ishihara likely in LDP race

Party angling for return to power; Noda kicks off DPJ campaign


By MASAMI ITO and NATSUKO FUKUE
Staff writers

Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki gave up his bid Monday to seek re-election in the Sept. 26 LDP leadership race, paving way for his right-hand man, Nobuteru Ishihara, as yet an undeclared candidate, to vie for the helm.

News photo
News photo Prime position: Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba leaves a news conference Monday at Liberal Democratic Party headquarters after declaring his candidacy for the upcoming party presidential race. Left: Current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki meanwhile announces he won't seek re-election. KYODO

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan meanwhile kicked off its presidential campaign with four candidates, but Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to hold on to the top job.

Tanigaki, who had repeatedly expressed his intention to run in the LDP election, dropped his bid after Ishihara, the son of hawkish Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and the current secretary general of the LDP, refused to rule out his candidacy. With the DPJ expected to lose badly in the next general election, which must be held by next summer, the presidential election is an extremely important political battle for the LDP, whose next leader could become prime minister.

During a morning news conference, Tanigaki said he pulled out of the race because he felt it was inappropriate for two people in the current LDP leadership to run against each other. He and Ishihara met repeatedly trying to settle the situation, but neither would yield and at one point it seemed they would run against each other.

"We are just one step away from regaining control of the government and I strongly wanted to do so with my own hands," Tanigaki said. But "I don't think it's good for two executive members to run."

At the DPJ, meanwhile, Noda stressed to reporters that the trilateral agreement he made with the LDP and New Komeito to double the consumption tax to 10 percent in exchange for dissolving the Lower House sometime "soon" should be kept regardless of any helm change. He refused, however, to elaborate on when he actually intends to call the next Lower House election.

" 'Soon' literally means soon, nothing more and nothing less. As I have said, revealing a specific date for the general election is something that (a prime minister) should not do," said Noda.

He will face off against former farm ministers Hirotaka Akamatsu and Michihiko Kano, and former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi, in the DPJ's Sept. 21 race, and key issues include Noda's recently won goal of winning Diet passage of the sales tax hike bill, and Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade initiative.

Noda, 55, vowed to create a nuclear power-free society, without saying when this may be achieved, and pledged 1 percent inflation within a year to overcome deflation.

He also vowed to protect Japanese sovereignty, including over the Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls, and the Takeshima islets, which are held by South Korea. He pledged to pave the way for the return of the Russia-held islands off Hokkaido. Noda also noted the government will buy three of the five Senkaku Islands, which are currently owned by a Saitama businessman.

"There are various problems regarding our sovereignty and our territory, but I will deal with them calmly and with a resolute attitude," Noda said.

Although Noda is likely to be re-elected with a wide range of internal support, including that of Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada and Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, he has been criticized for splitting the party over his tax policy, which forced the exit of about 50 DPJ lawmakers, led by kingpin Ichiro Ozawa.

Haraguchi, an outspoken opponent of the tax hike who decided to stay in the DPJ, declared he would scrap the trilateral agreement on the tax hike and also clearly crossed out the possibility of Japan joining the TPP negotiations with nine other countries, including the U.S.

Akamatsu and Kano both stated the trilateral accord on the tax hike should be respected but both expressed reluctance to join the TPP, which aims to eliminate all tariffs within 10 years.

All candidates, including Noda, are in agreement to change Japan's energy policy so that it would no longer rely on nuclear power in the future.

The LDP presidential campaign starts Friday. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba declared his candidacy Monday. Ishihara and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to throw their hats in the ring this week as well, joining former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, who stated last week that he would run.



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