Faction politics weaken in race for party leaders in Japan as national vote looms
The outcome of Japan’s ruling party leadership race to choose Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s successor has become increasingly unclear as four senior lawmakers have joined the race, raising the possibility of a second round.
But one thing is certain. Lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party are under more pressure to accommodate public opinion on who should succeed Suga than to abide by faction rules.
The four presidential candidates of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan attend a debate sponsored by the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on September 18, 2021. The four – (from left) Immunization Minister Taro Kono , former Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, former Minister of Communications Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda, Acting Executive Secretary General of the LDP, are vying for the post currently held by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) == Kyodo
The mandate of the members of the House of Representatives expires on October 21, which means that the one among the four candidates who wins the majority of the votes will become the new president of the PLD – and therefore Prime Minister – to lead the party and its coalition partner. Komeito in the general elections of the fall.
This aspect has prompted many PLD lawmakers – especially the younger ones who have yet to build a solid foundation in their constituencies – to seek to install a grassroots leader, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to break with the control of factions within the party.
Suga, for example, was elected chairman of the PLD last year after major factions, such as the 96-member group led by former chief cabinet secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the largest of the seven factions, gave him provided their support even if he was not a factionist himself.
“The LDP needs to think about how the public would view the party,” said Etsushi Tanifuji, professor emeritus of political science at Waseda University, alluding to traditional LDP politics in which faction leaders have effectively determined. who would become the party chairman.
While there is always a possibility that factions will step in if there is a run-off, where Diet members hold more votes than base members, Tanifuji warned it would be a decision. costly for PLD members and the new leader.
“If the LDP puts the logic of factions at the forefront and distances itself from public opinion by electing its leader, the party will lose support and lose many seats in the legislative elections,” he said.
Besides the Hosoda faction, there are the 53-member faction led by Finance Minister Taro Aso, the 51-member faction of Wataru Takeshita, a former chairman of the LDP General Council who just died on Friday, and the 47-member faction. LDP members. Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.
Three others are the 46-member faction led by Fumio Kishida, former chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, the 17-member faction led by former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, and the 10-member faction by Nobuteru Ishihara. , former secretary general of the LDP. .
Kishida is the only faction leader among the four candidates in the LDP presidential election on September 29. Three others are the Minister of Immunization Taro Kono, the former Minister of Communications Sanae Takaichi and the Acting Executive Secretary General of the PLD Seiko Noda.
So far, all factions except the one led by Kishida are set up to allow members to vote individually without endorsing a particular candidate.
All four candidates said if they win the race and form a new cabinet, they will not accept the factions’ recommendations about who should be given key cabinet and party positions.
As Suga steps back amid mounting criticism of his response to the coronavirus and his inability to communicate with the people, the LDP apparently needs a new face that is clearly different from the 72-year-old prime minister in order to regain the support of the public.
There is also a movement among the younger Diet members to seek to install a leader of their generation in place of the older lawmakers who have been key players under the government of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which lasted longer. of seven years and its extension by Suga. , who succeeded Abe’s policies and is serving the remainder of Abe’s tenure.
“During a long reign of a government, people start to tire of it towards the end. Once an era ends, there is a movement to put behind those who were active at that time and advance the new generations, “said Hitoshi Komiya, professor of Japanese political history at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.
Kono, 58, a reformist PLD maverick, might fit those inclinations as he has consistently ranked at the top of opinion polls on who is most suitable to become the leader of Japan and has garnered support from young members of the PLD Diet, including the environment. Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, future hopeful prime minister.
But while Kono has ruffled feathers in opposing nuclear power and ditching an expensive missile defense system in the past, veteran lawmakers, including members of the Aso faction to which he belongs, have been cautious before. to support it.
A Kyodo News poll covering PLD Diet members shows it is a close race between Kishida, Kono and Takaichi, followed by Noda, although more than 30% of Diet members have not yet decided on their choice.
But a separate Kyodo survey targeting grassroots members paints a different picture, claiming that an overwhelming 48.6% of respondents thought Kono was the fittest, followed by 18.5% for Kishida, 15 , 7% for Takaichi and 3.3% for Noda.
Grassroots members, who receive an equal number of votes from parliamentarians in the first round, are closer to the general public in believing that anyone aged 20 or over who has paid dues can participate in the leadership vote. The PLD currently has 382 parliamentarians.
Komiya said he wondered whether the PLD needs “medicine as drastic” as Kono if the party feels Suga has finally succeeded in pushing ahead with COVID-19 vaccinations to help soften social and economic restrictions in Japan.
Some might look to Kishida, known for his stability and composure, as a safer choice, he said.
Kishida, 64, has garnered support from the faction he leads, as well as seasoned lawmakers from the major factions led by Hosoda, Aso and Takeshita.
Takaichi, 60, a member of the right wing PLD who does not belong to any faction, has gained support from members of the Hosoda faction, including Abe, and other conservative members.
Noda, 61, entered the race at the last minute after gaining the approval of 20 PLD lawmakers, a prerequisite for participating.
But regardless of who becomes the leader, Komiya said the PLD would likely maintain its lead over opposition Diet parties.
“Whether it is Mr. Kono or Mr. Kishida, there will be no change of government in the general elections. The new leader is therefore only responsible for communicating better with the people than Mr. Suga,” a- he declared.
The following is a list of the leaders and the number of members of the seven main factions of the PLD.
– Hiroyuki Hosoda (96)
– Taro Aso (53)
– Wataru Takeshita (51)
– Toshihiro Nikai (47)
–Fumio Kishida (46)
– Shigeru Ishiba (17)
– Nobuteru Ishihara (10)
NOTE: Takeshita passed away on September 17th. Only Kishida is the head of a faction among the four candidates running for the party’s leadership. Kono belongs to the Aso faction while Takaichi and Noda do not belong to any of the seven.
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