The Daily Manila Shimbun


Power balance changing within LDP

August 21, 2017

TOKYO- The power balance in Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party is starting to show changes ahead of the LDP presidential election slated for autumn 2018.

Intraparty factions, including those led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Akiko Santo, former vice president of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, merged on July 3 into the second-largest group, with 59 members, trailing the 95-member faction headed by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda.

Aso, who heads the merged faction, called "Shiko-kai," is a close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hails from the Hosoda faction. "I will support the Abe administration from its center," Aso told a press conference following the establishment of Shiko-kai, which also includes some members who left the group of former LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki.

But Aso has evidently set an eye on further expanding his faction in order to compete with the Hosoda faction. "We aim to have enough members to hold the decisive vote in post-Abe politics," a senior member of the expanded Aso faction said.

Fumio Kishida, former foreign minister and currently chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, has taken a wait-and-see stance on the formation of Shiko-kai, declining a proposal from Aso to join forces. Kishida is regarded as a leading candidate to succeed Abe as LDP president, effectively assured of the prime ministership because of the party's comfortable majority in parliament.

Kishida heads the "Kochi-kai" blue-blood faction with 46 members. The late Kiichi Miyazawa, who resigned as national leader in 1993, was the last prime minister from the faction, and members are eager to see Kishida become the leader of Japan.

Some LDP lawmakers speculate that Kishida will not run in the LDP presidential election next year against Abe but will enter the following election with support from Abe. Party members close to Kishida are urging him to run in the 2018 race.

Shigeru Ishiba, former minister for regional revitalization and another leading candidate to succeed Abe, has only 19 members in his faction, one short of the 20 threshold needed to nominate a challenger for leadership of the LDP, but he is willing to run in the 2018 presidential election. Jiji Press