Photo/IllutrationShigeru Ishiba at a news conference on Aug. 10 (The Asahi Shimbun)

Liberal Democratic Party veteran Shigeru Ishiba announced on Aug. 10 that he will challenge Shinzo Abe in the party's presidential election in September, although the prime minister has secured the support of about 70 percent of the ruling party's Diet members.

“We must start to redraw the grand design for Japan so that the nation can cope with the broad challeges it faces,” Ishiba, a former party secretary-general, told a news conference.

He plans to call Abe's political style into question by campaigning on a platform of “honesty and fairness” and promising to “regain public trust in politics."

Ishiba cited a shrinking population, disparities among generations and between urban and rural areas, and changing national security climate as crucial issues Japan faces today.

“We cannot redraw the grand design unless we speak of truth sincerely, modestly and with courage, and manage to gain understanding and sympathy from the public,” he said.

Ishiba also said he will immediately implement a “100-day plan to regain trust in politics and administration” if he becomes party president.

On Aug. 9, the faction of former LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara, which consists of 12 members, decided that it will support Abe for a third term as party chief.

The Ishihara faction's decision means that Abe is now supported by five of the party's seven factions, or about 70 percent of the LDP Diet members who have rights to vote.

In addition to the Hosoda faction, to which Abe belongs, the faction led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, the group headed by LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida and the faction helmed by party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai have already decided to support Abe.

Ishiba will be backed by his own political group, which consists of 20 members, and some members of the faction led by Wataru Takeshita, chairman of the LDP General Council.

The Takeshita faction, which consists of 55 members, formally decided on Aug. 9 to leave the decision to its members, as they could not agree on a single candidate to support as a faction.

“The Lower House members largely support Abe, and the Upper House members support Ishiba,” Takeshita said. “They will decide individually based on their positions.”

More than 20 members of the Takeshita faction, mostly Lower House members, have expressed their support for Abe. Most of the group's 21 Upper House members are expected to back Ishiba.