Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) decided on Thursday afternoon to hold presidential election next Sunday, or Sept. 23, to pick a new party president to replace Shinzo Abe, who expressed his intention to resign on Wednesday.
The LDP confirmed the date at its General Council meeting. According to the meeting's decision, the party will announce on Friday the formalities of the leadership election and accept candidacies on Saturday, according to Jiji Press.
Abe himself originally wanted to attend the meeting to explain reasons of his resignation, but refrained from doing so on doctor's advice. The premier has been admitted into a Tokyo hospital for functional gastrointestinal disorder and will probably be hospitalized for at least three to four days.
LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga have been identified by Japanese media as major contenders and hopefuls to succeed Abe.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has turned down junior followers request and ruled out the possibility of his running in the election, Kyodo News reported, quoting sources.
Endorsement by at least 20 LDP lawmakers is needed for being accepted as a candidate for the LDP presidential election.
Since the LDP enjoys the majority in the lower house, or the House of Representatives, which holds the decisive power in the Diet, the LDP president will be naturally appointed prime minister.
Abe was elected the 21st LDP president on Sept. 20, 2006, and was appointed prime minister by the lower house six days later.