LDP lawmakers prepare for party leadership race

Japan's main governing Liberal Democratic Party is preparing for a leadership election scheduled for later this month. Five possible candidates are said to be preparing to join the race.

Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro is one of those planning to run. He met Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aso Taro on Monday, along with Amari Akira, the LDP chairperson of the Research Commission on the Tax System.

Aso leads the party faction that Kono belongs to, but is reluctant to throw the group's support behind him. Senior members of the Aso faction plan to hear opinions from other faction members over Kono's candidacy.

Former LDP Secretary-General and former Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru, who is viewed as a possible contender, said that he has not decided anything yet.

Some members of Ishiba's faction are said to be cautious about his candidacy as he suffered a major setback in the LDP leadership election last year. Some others say that Ishiba should support Kono's candidacy.

Ishiba is expected to discuss the matter at a meeting of his faction on Tuesday, before he makes a decision.

Former LDP policy chief and former Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio is the only one to have officially announced he will run.

Having completed visits to party lawmakers at their offices in Tokyo to ask for support, Kishida is beginning a campaign to seek the backing of LDP support groups in a bid to collect votes from rank-and-file party members.

Former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae plans to run. She intends to show her determination to take over and develop the economic policy that former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo introduced.

LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General and former internal affairs minister Noda Seiko is trying to secure the 20 endorsements required by each candidate.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties are demanding the Diet immediately convene an extraordinary session. They say a political vacuum created by the LDP leadership race should be avoided.

Diet affairs chief Azumi Jun of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party said the LDP should stop wasting time on its own election and engage in discussions in the Diet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.