TOKYO, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) started its official campaigning of the presidential election Wednesday to choose a new party leader to succeed President and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda who abruptly announced resignation early last week after about one year in post.
Five LDP lawmakers filed their candidacies in the morning at the LDP headquarters for the election slated for the Sept. 22.
Among them, LDP Secretary General and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso was widely regarded as the front-runner in the upcoming race. The popular politician known for his interest in cartoons boasted 40 percent of support rate within the ruling party, a latest survey showed.
The other five candidates are former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano, and former LDP policy chief NobuteruIshihara. Koike became the first female candidate for the LDP presidency.
The number of candidates is the highest in 38 years since the LDP began in 1971 to request 20 lawmakers' recommendations for each candidate for running in the presidential race.
At a joint press conference in the afternoon, all of the five called for a supplementary budget plan as early as possible to stimulate economy and supported the government's existed pledge to raise the treasury's share in the basic pension for seniors.
On defense and diplomacy, all of them vowed to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.
About their respective advantage in the race, Aso said he has experience, Koike was proud of her representation of more groups, Ishiba boasted adeptness in defense and security, and Ishihara, son of the Tokyo governor, said he is young and full of energy.
Campaigning will be carried out in the coming two weeks all over Japan, with the five candidates giving public speeches on the street and appearing in a series of public activities for votes.
They are to compete for the simple majority of a total of 528 ballots, 387 from the party's Diet members and 141 from prefectural representatives. A second round will be held between the top two if none succeed in the first round.
The winner of the election will undoubtedly replace Fukuda as prime minister at the extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 24 since the ruling coalition controls the majority in the more powerful Lower House of the Diet.
The LDP presidential race left the simultaneous presidential election of the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) lackluster since DPJ incumbent party chief Ichiro Ozawa had been announced the only candidate.
Analysts said campaigning activities involving the five LDP candidates around Japan will help boost the party's popularity and lift the next party president and prime minister's support rate.