The Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election in September is shaping up into a one-on-one contest between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, with the advantage clearly favoring the incumbent.

Fumio Kishida, the LDP policy chief who was expected to challenge Abe, said July 24 that he would not run in the election and instead support Abe’s bid for a third term as LDP president.

At a news conference, Kishida touched upon the need to deal with the devastating damage from torrential rains in western Japan as well as issues related to North Korea.

“I made the decision that it would be more appropriate to deal with the various political issues facing us under a structure centered on Prime Minister Abe,” Kishida said.

He also indicated that he wanted his LDP faction, the fourth largest with 48 members, to unify its support behind Abe.

Kishida on July 23 informed the prime minister about his decision not to run.

Seiko Noda, the internal affairs minister, has also shown an interest in entering the LDP presidential race, but she appears to be encountering difficulties in gathering the required number of LDP lawmakers to support her candidacy.

If Kishida were to challenge Abe and lose in the election, his faction could be pushed out of the mainstream, making it more difficult for faction members to gain appointments as Cabinet ministers or other top ministry and party posts.

With Abe gaining the support of the other major LDP factions and Ishiba visiting various parts of Japan to drum up support from local party members who can also vote, Kishida did not appear to have a solid strategy that could lead to his victory in September.

Kishida said at the July 24 news conference that he wants to create a stable framework to resolve issues and make much of the population happy.

One person who is happy with Kishida’s move is the prime minister himself.

Kishida’s decision to support Abe in the presidential race means that four of the seven LDP factions are expected to come out in favor of the incumbent.