All national papers reported extensively on former Foreign Minister Kishida’s official announcement on Thursday that he will run in the Sept. 29 LDP presidential election, quoting the veteran politician as saying: “Public trust in politics has begun to erode as many people feel that the LDP does not pay attention to their opinions. I will seek the party presidency to defend the nation’s democracy and to demonstrate that the LDP is capable of heeding people’s voices and presenting a broad range of options.” As Prime Minister Suga has already indicated his intention to seek reelection, the papers projected that the race will be fought primarily between the two seasoned officials. In an apparent bid to prompt former Prime Minister Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Aso to support his campaign, Kishida suggested that he would not reappoint Secretary General Nikai if he is elected LDP president. Although Abe and Aso are allegedly committed to reelecting Suga, they are not happy that Nikai wields so much clout within the ruling party.
In addition to the 47-member LDP faction led by Nikai, a 10-member group headed by former Secretary General Ishihara has already decided to support Suga’s reelection. Other factions, including those effectively led by Abe and Aso, are also likely to embrace the prime minister’s bid to win a second term. However, as this time around rank-and-file LDP members in the 47 prefectures will be given an equal number of votes as the 383 Diet members, the papers speculated that support from a large majority of parliamentarians alone may be insufficient for the unpopular incumbent leader to get reelected. Furthermore, many junior Diet members with weak support bases in their home constituencies have openly suggested that they will not be bound by their faction leaders’ decisions to support the prime minister.
However, Suga is reportedly confident that he will be able to secure a mandate from party members in the field because he assumes that the coronavirus pandemic will soon be brought under control soon thanks to his aggressive vaccine rollout campaign. He now regards the presidential race as a great opportunity to tout his policy accomplishments, such as the steady vaccine rollout program, the launch of the Digital Agency, and drastic cuts in smartphone charges.