TOKYO, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Tuesday decided to hold a leadership election, although rank-and-file voters will be excluded from the process to make it simpler and avoid a political vacuum as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped down mid-term owing to health issues.
The presidential election will effectively select Abe's successor due to the LDP's majority in the lower house of Japan's bicameral parliament.
The LDP's General Council's decision to hold a scaled-down presidential election with voting applicable only to lawmakers and delegates from the party's local chapters, however, may be a setback for some candidates.
The LDP's former Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru, who is popular with rank-and-file members and the public but has been critical of Abe as the only contender in the previous LDP leadership race in 2018, described the council's decision against an open election as "regrettable."
"It is extremely regrettable that not all party members can vote this round," Ishiba said at a press conference as he formally announced his candidacy.
Ishiba's concerns have been echoed by more than 140 lawmakers who have signed a petition calling for an open election.
"It's important that rank-and-file members vote, so that the new leader takes over the reins of government after Abe with a strong mandate," he said, adding that despite the council's decision, he would not give up.
Other LDP heavyweights have also thrown their hats in the ring to take over the LDP's top post, with LDP policy chief and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also announcing his candidacy.
Kishida, who didn't stand in the party's previous election so as to support Abe, said he wanted to be "a leader who can gain the cooperation of the people."
"While regarding highly the fruit of the Abe administration, we must work on new issues that arise with as times change," Kishida said, with reference to issues of earning imbalances and the need to tackle the spread of the coronavirus while balancing economic issues.
"For the Japanese people and for my country, I am willing to do everything needed. I would like to ask for your support," Kishida said.
Meanwhile, the government's top spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he will formally declare his candidacy to run in the LDP's presidential election on Wednesday.
Suga has been one of Abe's closest confidants for almost eight years and if elected is expected to continue Abe's monetary and fiscal policies as well as Abe's approach to tackling the pandemic.
He will also have the backing of Abe's faction, the party's largest, led by former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, LDP sources said, while also confirming that Finance Minister Taro Aso's faction will also back Suga.
Defense Minister Taro Kono said he will not run in the race after discussions with his camp. Kono belongs to Aso's faction which will back Suga.
The election race is slated to begin on Sept. 8 with the vote being held on Sept. 14. In the scaled-down vote, 394 Diet members will cast ballots and a total of 141 votes will be cast by three delegates each from the country's 47 prefectural chapters.
In an extraordinary Diet session that may be held on Sept. 16, the winner of the election will be named as the new prime minister. Enditem