TOKYO, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- The abrupt resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has triggered a race within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the top job. With Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gaining support from major factions within the party, he is increasingly seen as the top pick to replace Abe.
Suga, 71, is expected to announce his candidacy in the LDP leadership race after the party formally decides on Tuesday how and when to choose a successor of Abe.
LDP top officials are making final arrangements to have its members in both houses of the Diet meet around Sept. 13-15 to choose the party's president. Then, the party plans to call an extraordinary parliamentary session to elect the new prime minister on Sept. 17, according to public broadcaster NHK.
When asked by media reporters about his candidacy at a regular news conference on Monday, Suga, the government's top spokesman, declined to comment.
"I will refrain from commenting on it because this is a venue to explain the position of the government," he said, adding that he finds it very regrettable that Abe has resigned, as he has been serving with the prime minister as Chief Cabinet Secretary since the beginning of his tenure.
According to local media, Suga has already garnered support from LDP heavyweight and Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, who leads a 47-member faction within the party. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Taro Aso, who heads a 54-member faction, is also expected to endorse Suga.
Aso, a longtime ally of Abe, who himself held the premiership from 2008 to 2009, has said he would not seek a second term.
Apart from Suga, LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba have shown interest in running in the party's presidential race.
Earlier Monday, Kishida met with Abe at the prime minister's office and called for his support again.
According to Kishida, the prime minister replied that the Hosoda faction, to which he belonged, has yet to pick a candidate for endorsement.
Ishiba, a rare LDP critic of the Abe administration, leads a faction with 19 members within the party. Although a latest survey showed that he is the most popular choice to be Japan's next leader, he lags behind in support from lawmakers.
If the LDP finally decides to allow only lawmakers and representatives of prefectural chapters to vote in the election, Ishiba would be greatly disadvantaged. Enditem