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LDP leadership race starts in Tokyo, run-off may follow

(Xinhua)

13:05, September 26, 2012

TOKYO, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The presidential election of Japan' s main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) kicked off here Wednesday at the LDP headquarters, with five candidates vying for the top party post in a neck-and-neck contest.

Japan's former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 55, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 58, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara, 55, ex-Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, 68, and former economic and fiscal policy minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, 51, are facing off against each other in the closely watched election, with the winner aiming to become the country's next prime minister after a general election due within a year.

Ishiba is set to secure the strongest support among rank-and- file party members but unlikely to obtain a majority in the initial round that includes 300 votes from local party members and 198 votes from LDP lawmakers in the Diet.

Meanwhile, Abe could obtain greater backing from LDP lawmakers. If no candidate is able to clinch over 250 votes in the first round, a run-off will take place later in the day between the top two in which only LDP legislators are eligible to cast their ballots.

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