The race to succeed Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda as president of the Liberal Democratic Party became more heated Friday with three more lawmakers indicating their intention to run.
Earlier, four well-known politicians said they were planning to run or were stepping up efforts to obtain the signatures of the 20 LDP Diet members needed to file papers as a candidate for the party presidency. The campaign will formally begin on Wednesday, with voting on Sept. 22.
The four are: LDP Secretary-General Taro Aso, 67; Kaoru Yosano, 70, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy; Yuriko Koike, 56, a former defense minister; and Nobuteru Ishihara, 51, a former LDP policy chief.
On Friday, another former defense minister, Shigeru Ishiba, 51, told a gathering of LDP Diet members belonging to the faction led by Yuji Tsushima, a former health and welfare minister, that he also planned to run.
Pointing to foreign policy and national security issues as well as the growing economic gap between urban and rural areas, Ishiba also told reporters, "Economic issues are not the only topics that need to be discussed."
Political analysts said one factor behind Ishiba's move was a desire among some Tsushima faction members to cement bloc solidarity by becoming a key player in the LDP presidential race.
While it remains uncertain whether the entire faction will back Ishiba, a number of younger faction members insisted that a representative from the faction should run.
Two other younger Diet members also indicated they wanted to run to demonstrate that the LDP was handing the leadership baton to a younger generation. Fukuda is 72.
Ichita Yamamoto, 50, a state secretary for foreign affairs, said: "Our group has continued with discussions in the belief that a candidate should be entered with a campaign manifesto. In the end, I hope to be that candidate."
Yasufumi Tanahashi, a former state minister in charge of science and technology policy who heads a group of younger Diet members intent on speeding up the reform process, also indicated that he, too, would run.
Tanahashi, 45, said, "What is lacking in the LDP is the dynamism of generational change as well as the ability to gather up the feelings of the public."
All three will have to acquire the endorsement of at least 20 LDP Diet members to formally enter the presidential race.
The increasingly crowded field has led to concerns among the other potential candidates. Some may lose their base if all these people run.
Ishihara, the son of nationalistic Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara,is deemed too green for the position by many, including private citizens hereabouts.