Yomiuri claimed in a front-page story that former Defense Minister Ishiba has decided not to run in the Sept. 29 LDP presidential election and instead support Administrative Reform Minister Kono as the successor to departing Prime Minister Suga. Kono met with Ishiba on Monday and reportedly asked him to endorse his campaign by promising that if elected, he would launch a party leadership lineup involving politicians from all major factions. Ishiba allegedly appreciated Kono’s commitment to party unity. Other papers said Ishiba is expected to announce whether he will throw his hat in the ring after meeting with his faction members tomorrow.
Sankei noted that Kono is apparently anxious to court Ishiba, who is enormously popular among rank-and-file party members in the countryside, so as to win the race in the first round of voting based on the assessment that many party Diet members would support former Foreign Minister Kishida in a runoff. Kono reportedly assumes that not many of Ishiba’s supporters will endorse Kishida or former Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Takaichi because they are both close to former Prime Minister Abe, who allegedly “detests” Ishiba.
In a related story, Yomiuri wrote that Environment Minister Koizumi is set to announce his support for Kono’s campaign today, noting that the popular politician’s blessing is likely to further boost Kono’s standing in the race. PM Suga is also reportedly inclined to back Kono’s candidacy. Koizumi, Kono, and Suga all represent Kanagawa.
Meanwhile, the LDP’s two largest factions that are effectively led by former Prime Minister Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Aso decided yesterday that they will not formally endorse anyone in the election, thereby allowing each faction member to support his or her preferred candidate at least in the first round.