Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe announces his candidacy for the presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Tarumizu, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Aug. 26. (Shinnosuke Ito)

  • Photo/Illustraion

TARUMIZU, Kagoshima Prefecture--Against a dramatic backdrop of Mount Sakurajima, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his candidacy on Aug. 26 for re-election in next month's presidential race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in this small city here.

“Japan is at a big turning point in history,” he said, referring to the ascension of a new emperor and the meeting of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka, both in 2019, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“I am determined to lead efforts to build a new nation.”

Abe's announcement in Tarumizu is apparently aimed at wooing local voters as he tries to win their support following two recent scandals.

With his candidacy, the Sept. 20 race is shaping up as a duel between Abe, who has the upper hand by a wide margin as far as LDP Diet members’ votes are concerned, and Shigeru Ishiba, a former party secretary-general.

Ishiba, a defense expert who has worked to revitalize local regions, announced his candidacy on Aug. 10.

Internal affairs minister Seiko Noda has expressed interest in entering the race, but she still cannot rally 20 LDP lawmakers behind her candidacy, the minimum needed to be eligible to run.

Official election campaigning will kick off Sept. 7. Abe is seeking his third three-year term as party chief.

The focal point of the race will be how Ishiba fares in the vote of local card-carrying LDP members and supporters across the nation.

Their votes will have the same weight as those of party members in the Diet in the upcoming poll, which was revised from the setup six years ago.

Abe has secured support from about 70 percent of 405 LDP Diet members, or five of seven factions of the party.

In the 2012 presidential election, Ishiba led Abe by a wide margin in the votes of local LDP members and supporters.

Abe has been crisscrossing the nation to appeal to local voters for the presidential election. His credibility as the nation’s top leader has been undermined by a series of scandals, including those involving Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, school operators linked to the prime minister or his wife.

In the meantime, Ishiba said Aug. 25 that he will stop using the expression “honesty and fairness” in his campaign platform in an effort to gain more support for his bid.

The announcement came after many LDP Diet members had criticized the slogan as amounting to a “personal attack” on Abe.

They said the expression is a reminder of the scandals.