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POLITICS

Fierce power struggle emerges between Suga, Nikai

  • 2015-06-09 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Themis: June 2015 – p. 23-25)

 

 There is no doubt that the Abe government will be able to maintain its firm grip on power for quite a while, but the direction of power within the government is gradually shifting due to an internal “chemical reaction.”

 

 Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the General Affairs Council in the Liberal Democratic Party, has recently been gaining ground, challenging Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga who has built up his presence as Abe’s right-hand man.

 

 “Nikai was one of the first people to express support for Abe’s re-election for a third term as party president,” said a person close to the LDP. “He has made his mark by quickly building party consensus on security bills and he was also quick to take steps when a drone dropped onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s Office building. His coordinating skills are superior to Suga’s.”

 

 Nikai has also become a trusted figure for Abe. In mid-May, he accompanied the prime minister to Wakayama Prefecture, his electorate, where they visited historic sites together. “He knows how to win the trust of people and has already won the heart of Abe,” said a senior LDP member.

 

 The Nikai faction includes several lawmakers with no party affiliations. Behind the scenes, talks are underway for joining hands with the Ishihara faction. Nikai has strong channels of communication with China and South Korea. His political thinking and principles are different from Abe’s. Nonetheless he has won Abe’s favor.

 

 Suga, meanwhile, is also stepping up his influence. On May 9, he became the fourth-longest serving chief cabinet secretary, remaining in office for 865 days.

 

 An analysis that the Yomiuri Shimbun ran in its May 9 edition has quietly drawn the attention of LDP members.

 

 The report said: “Suga is interested in the post of LDP secretary-general and has jokingly suggested that he and Economy and Fiscal Policy Minister Amari take turns serving as chief cabinet secretary and secretary-general each year.”

 

 Suga acts as a brake on Abe’s conservative polices, advising him not to visit Yasukuni Shrine. Much talk on the Yomiuri article within the party suggests there are moves to contain Suga.

 

 But a political reporter with another newspaper outlet offers a different perspective. “It is highly likely that the source of the information was Suga himself,” the person said. “He lost influence when he failed to build consensus over the Okinawa issue, so he was desperate to demonstrate his presence. Rumor has it that a personnel reshuffle may take place in September. Attention is focused on who will be named as chief cabinet secretary and LDP secretary-general.”

 

 The chances of Sadakazu Tanigaki, the incumbent secretary-general, or LDP Policy Affairs chief Tomomi Inada, running for party presidency are slim, as they support Abe’s re-election. The influence of Shigeru Ishiba has already been diluted. Nobuteru Ishihara has lost his fighting spirit. Nobutaka Machimura stepped down as Lower House Speaker because he suffered a stroke.

 

 Seiko Noda may declare her candidacy. But it will not be easy for her to win the endorsement of 20 members, as the odds are against her.

 

 Suga shook hands with Nikai at a reception of business leaders held at a Tokyo hotel on May 19. They were divided over a referendum on the streamlining of Osaka. The gesture may suggest reconciliation, but their rivalry will probably continue for some time. (Summary)

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