LDP heavyweights unite to keep key Suga support under control
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweights such as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have launched a new Diet group, in a measure seen by many as aimed at monitoring the growing presence of LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, ahead of the next party leadership elections.
Abe, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Akira Amari, chairman of the party’s tax system research committee, launched the new group at a meeting on Friday.
This move is seen as countering the rise to power of Nikai, a strong supporter of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The meeting brought together around sixty members, including figures such as former PLD general secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, former finance minister Fukushiro Nukaga and former party policy chief Fumio Kishida.
The Nikai faction officials were absent from the unprecedented rally of leaders of many factions in the party.
“While we may sound like we’re playing politics, we’ve definitely come to talk about semiconductors,” Aso said at the start of the meeting, referring to the group’s stated goal of revitalizing the Japanese semiconductor industry.
However, very few party members take Aso’s words at face value.
“They are looking to show their cooperation, which has remained unchanged since the Abe administration,” said a source from the party faction led by Aso. “It’s a sign of an approaching conflict.”
The Aso faction, which has Amari in its ranks, discussed the formation of the Diet group at a faction meeting on Thursday.
Members of other factions are also beginning to suspect that heavyweights are creating political drama.
Aso and others are deeply unhappy with Nikai’s grip on party management, achieved through his trusting relationship with Suga.
The founding of the new group comes as party members begin to call on Nikai to step down, as he has already become the longest-serving party general secretary and is set to stay in the post for five years in August. . year.
Nikai faction officials have remained calm on the developments, saying they are not interested in the Diet group.
However, a faction veteran said the move “felt like a political game,” suggesting Nikai was not happy with it.
Nikai and Amari are currently playing a blame game over the party’s use of 150 million yen to support a candidate since embroiled in a major vote-buying scandal.
“The responsibility lies with the party headquarters,” Hiroshige Seko, LDP secretary general in the House of Councilors and close to Abe, told a press conference on Friday. “The secretary general is responsible for the party headquarters.”
Some fear that the new Diet group could start infighting ahead of the House of Representatives election due in the fall, an LDP leadership election in September and the selection of party leaders, as well. only members of the Cabinet.
“Such tactics are not good” amid the COVID-19 state of emergency and ahead of the election, a former cabinet minister said.
“An intra-partisan political crisis would now translate into a loss in the lower house elections,” warned an upper house member of the faction led by LDP heavyweight Wataru Takeshita.
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