Possible candidates emerge to succeed Suga

One day after Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide's abrupt decision to pull out of his party's presidential election, possible candidates within the main ruling party are gearing up for the race to succeed him.

Suga said on Friday that he will not run in the Liberal Democratic Party's next election, saying he wants to focus on tackling coronavirus infections.

His decision means he will step down as prime minister when his term as LDP president expires at the end of September.

LDP lawmakers sprang into action following his announcement. The party election has now become a race to choose Suga's successor.

Former foreign minister Kishida Fumio, who has already declared his intention to run, met online with prefectural assembly members in Okinawa and asked for their support.

Kishida said that having multiple candidates will liven up debate during the election campaign. He said the election will be "a precious chance to show that the LDP is a party for the people, and it listens to their voices and offers a wide range of political options."

Kono Taro, the minister in charge of vaccine rollout, joined an online fashion event targeting young people and urged them to get vaccinated.

Kono said Japan is administering about 1.2 million shots per day, and has enough supplies to offer two shots to everyone who wants them by early November.

He added, "I want young people to get vaccinated when they can, so happy days will return."

Former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae, who has shown an interest in running, spent the day preparing the documents required for candidacy.

Another former internal affairs minister, Noda Seiko, called LDP Diet members to seek support. Noda does not belong to any party faction.

Former defense minister Ishiba Shigeru was reaching out to other lawmakers to gauge the situation within the party.

Campaigning for the LDP presidential election is due to start on September 17, followed by voting and vote counting on the 29th.