Japanese former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda enjoys lead in the rivalry for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s presidency as the ruling party announced on Friday the formalities of the leadership election.
Fukuda expressed his readiness to run in the presidential election at a temporary meeting of the largest LDP faction that he himself belongs to, and the faction has decided to support him.
"I am encouraged and I felt a stronger need than before to do it," the 71-year-old House of Representatives lawmaker was quoted by Kyodo News as telling colleagues at the meeting of the faction, which was led by Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.
The LDP Secretary General and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso announced in the afternoon at a press conference his decision to run in the election.
It is currently a general estimate of Japanese media that the upcoming competition will be a battle between Aso, the LDP's No.2, and Fukuda, and the latter enjoys obvious advantage in the duel since over a half of the LDP factions have decided to extend support for him.
Fukuda met with various faction leaders earlier in the day and reach a common stand with them to give priority to Asian diplomacy, Japan's television network NHK reported.
Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who has showed willingness to seek the presidency, decided earlier in the day to give up after exchanging ideas with Fukuda and decided to support him.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday turned down junior followers request and ruled out the possibility of his running in the election.
The LDP decided on Thursday at its General Council meeting to hold the presidential election on Sept. 23 to pick a new president to replace Shinzo Abe, who expressed his intention to resign on Wednesday. The party will accept candidacies on Saturday.
Endorsement by at least 20 LDP lawmakers is needed for being accepted as a presidential candidate.
A total of 387 LDP Diet members and 141 prefectural LDP representatives hold a total of 528 ballots in the election, in which the candidate who wins a majority wins. If the first round of voting turns out to be futile, a second round will be organized among LDP Diet members to choose the majority winner. Ballot cast and counting will be conducted the same day.
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.