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Tanigaki loses key support in reelection bid

Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki has failed to win the support of party heavyweight Makoto Koga for his bid to remain leader of the main opposition party, according to LDP sources, a blow that puts his reelection in serious jeopardy.

Tanigaki met with Koga, the leader of the party faction the LDP president belonged to, on Monday morning to ask for his support. Koga reportedly declined to back him in the upcoming election, saying he would rather see a younger candidate as the next party leader.

Tanigaki reminded Koga--a former LDP secretary general--that when he took the helm of the party, he vowed to regain public confidence in the LDP. Tanigaki said he has a responsibility to work on the final details and asked for Koga's support while he finishes the job, the sources said.

However, Koga reportedly told Tanigaki he wants to put his hopes on a younger lawmaker who can reconstruct the party, as the new LDP president is expected to soon face a House of Representatives election.

Koga has reportedly been dissatisfied with Tanigaki's leadership for not paying enough consideration to the wishes of the leaders of the various LDP factions.

Speaking with reporters after the 20-minute meeting with Koga at LDP headquarters, Tanigaki reaffirmed his intention to run in the presidential election. "It would be better if party factions didn't come to the fore in presidential elections," he said.

The Koga faction is the second-largest faction in the LDP, with 32 members from both Diet houses. Without the support of the powerful party leader and his group, Tanigaki will likely find it difficult to garner enough votes to win reelection.

A relatively large number of candidates are expected to run in the election, and Tanigaki is not expected to add to the supporters he already has. Some party members have said they think he could be forced to withdraw from the race.

One of Tanigaki's most formidable opponents could be LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara, who appeared to express an intention to run in remarks made Sunday in Kagoshima.

"I haven't been involved in politics to support President Tanigaki. I've been working with strong determination to do something for Japan," he said in a speech. Ishihara had previously indicated support for Tanigaki in the upcoming presidential race.

In addition, several veteran lawmakers have become more vocal about wanting to see Tanigaki withdraw from the race.

Tanigaki said he would officially announce his candidacy soon, either just before or after the current Diet session ends Saturday.

The LDP will hold its presidential election Sept. 26, with the campaign starting Sept. 14.

Tanigaki has seen support from other powerful party members fall away recently. Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori criticized Tanigaki on a TV Asahi program Sunday for the party's handling of a censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The censure motion was meant to negate the three-party reform agreement.

"I think there's a limit to what Mr. Tanigaki can do. My feelings about him have completely changed," Mori said.

Mori had indicated back in July that he would support Tanigaki for another term as LDP president, but his comments Sunday suggest he has had a change of heart.

Mori is reportedly dissatisfied with the running of the party under Tanigaki, who has been notably cool to the wishes of veteran lawmakers and the leaders of the various party factions.

With little support for Tanigaki from the old guard, many midranking and junior LDP lawmakers appear ready to face the next lower house election under a new party head.

Nevertheless, Tanigaki is expected to at least secure support from 20 party lawmakers, the minimum required to run for party leader, but support much beyond this is seen as unlikely.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, who heads his own faction, expressed an intention to run for the presidency Sunday, but the Machimura faction is expected to be divided, as another faction member, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is also seen as likely to run.

Former LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba has decided to enter the race, and Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, is considering running.

Abe, who has been critical of the ruling DPJ, says the party should seek more cooperation with Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group) led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. Ishihara has expressed similar views.

(Sep. 4, 2012)
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