A pair of senior politicians - one a favorite of the old guard, the other championed by younger lawmakers - announced their candidacies Friday to replace outgoing Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, reflecting splits within the ruling party over style and policy.
Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi, a 61-year-old party veteran with extensive Cabinet experience, has spent days building up support in the traditional manner - holding closed door meetings with LDP power brokers. He has promised more than $43 billion in permanent tax cuts, including a reduction in both corporate and personal rates."We must take the explosion of voter anger seriously," Obuchi told reporters at a press conference Friday morning to formally announce his candidacy.
But a growing number of reformist lawmakers are rallying behind former Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama to succeed Hashimoto, who announced his resignation earlier this week after his party's stunning defeat in upper house elections.
The party will vote July 24 to choose its next leader, who because of the LDP's control of Parliament's lower house will become prime minister.
Many junior party members are protesting Obuchi's candidacy, saying he lacks the sort of bold ideas needed to revive the stagnant economy. They also oppose the way Obuchi has gone about securing party support. Secret deals and backroom politicking, they argue, were exactly what voters were rejecting when they handed the LDP its defeat at the polls Sunday.
The younger wing of the LDP expressed support for Kajiyama, 72, a longtime critic of Hashimoto's economic policies and a champion of big tax cuts.