Japan's ex-defence chief Shigeru Ishiba hints at plan to run against PM Abe in ruling party leadership race


Public support has been dropping for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has yet to indicate if he will file his candidacy.
Public support has been dropping for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has yet to indicate if he will file his candidacy. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO - Japan's former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba has signalled his intention to run in the upcoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race as a challenger to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kyodo news agency reported.

"We should have an election (in which candidates face off)," Mr Ishiba said on Thursday (July 26), adding that there is "no point at all" in running if there is no challenge to the status quo.

His remarks, made at a meeting of some editorial writers, were seen as expressing his determination to run against Mr Abe, who is serving his second term as the LDP leader, Kyodo said.

The LDP leadership election needs to be held before Mr Abe's current three-year term ends on Sept 30. Among potential candidates, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida said earlier this week he would not run for the race and would instead support the prime minister.

Mr Abe, 63, has yet to say whether he will file his candidacy. But the September race is widely expected to be a battle between the arch rivals. Mr Ishiba was defeated in the 2012 LDP leadership contest that paved the way for Mr Abe's return to power for a second time.

"I have my own responsibility to clearly state my stance," Mr Ishiba said. But he did not specify when he would officially announce his candidacy, saying that more time is needed to prepare campaign pledges that can counter arguments.

The former defence chief said a candidate needs to express views on a range of issues, from diplomacy and security to social security, adding that the governance of the LDP should be one focus of the forthcoming election.

 
 

Mr Ishiba, who once served as the LDP's secretary-general, expressed his intention to take a fresh look at how the ruling party has been run under the Abe administration.

"The LDP should not be a party that is arrogant and looks down on fellow lawmakers," the 61-year-old lawmaker said.

Mr Abe has seen public support for his Cabinet drop after a series of suspected favouritism scandals. But he is still widely favoured to win his third term as the LDP chief, which would make him Japan's longest-serving prime minister.