As of June 24, Kyodo News surveyed 73 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet members not belonging to any faction on how they intend to vote in the party’s presidential election in September. The survey found out that 31 of them, or around 40%, support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reelection for a third term as party president. This means that on top of support from the Hosoda, Aso, and Nikai factions (with a total of 197 members), which are backing Abe, the Prime Minister has the support of a total of 228 LDP Diet members, which is more than 50% of the total of 405.
However, 37, or more than half of the unaffiliated lawmakers, are either undecided or did not give an answer. Since votes from the rank-and-file members and associate members of the local chapters are still unpredictable, there is still room for the situation to change.
Abe, former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda have indicated their plan to run in the election, while Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida is keeping his option open. An election is expected to actually take place for the first time in six years and the party leadership is looking at setting Sept. 7 as the start of the official campaign period and Sept. 20 as voting day.
Kyodo News queried the unaffiliated Diet members personally or their offices and found out that as of now, 36 lawmakers have decided whom to vote for, of whom 31, including the Prime Minister himself, will vote for Abe. Two will vote for Ishiba, while another two, including Noda herself, will support Noda. One lawmaker responded that he will vote for “somebody other than the Prime Minister.”
Diet members supporting Abe cited response to North Korea and other foreign policies, the need for continuity in the Abenomics policies, and so forth as their reasons. One of the politicians who support Ishiba said: “He is popular with members in my constituency,” while supporters of Noda cited “expectations on her policies.”
Among the factions, the Ishiba faction (20 members) is supporting Ishiba while the Kishida faction (48 members) is waiting for Kishida to decide. General Council Chairman Wataru Takeshita, who heads the third largest Takeshita faction, will not make a decision until the last minute.
The outcome of the LDP election is decided by votes of the Diet members and of the rank-and-file members and associate members. A telephone poll conducted by Kyodo News on June 16-17 showed that 45.9% of LDP supporters favor Abe as the next president, while 18.1% opted for Ishiba, 3% for Kishida, and 2.5% for Noda.