Three candidates, who are competing for the top post of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the election scheduled for Sept. 28, had a public debate Saturday at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
The three, who declared candidacies Friday, are former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, former Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono, and former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.
In their debate, Tanigaki said that the LDP is sure to be reinvigorated if party lawmakers "summon up the mettle through mutual help."
Japan will have to raise the consumption tax rate, currently at5 percent, if it is to finance its large annual government expenditures, according to the 64-year-old politician.
Kono, for his part, argued that the LDP's middle-ranking and young lawmakers need to regenerate the party.
Claiming he is the person who can comprehend the afflictions of people in local constituents most deeply, Nishimura maintained that the ills of local economies cannot be healed if Japan continued to place excessive emphasis on the principles of competition in running the Japanese economy and financial markets.
The top LDP office has been vacant since former Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubled as LDP party chief, stepped down from both posts on Wednesday.
In the upcoming election, 199 LDP law makers in the Diet and 300 local LDP members will cast their ballots to choose the 24th LDP president.
In the historic general election on Aug. 30, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won by a landslide, breaking the half-century lock of the LDP on power. Japan has thus witnessed a real change of government for the first time in the postwar era.
The upcoming race will be the second presidential election, following the 1993 leadership race, to be held with the LDP out of power since its founding in 1955.