(Yomiuri: June 23, 2015 – p. 2)
Since the current session of the Diet has now been substantially extended until Sept. 27, there is a growing view that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will win the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election for his third term unopposed. The LDP leadership race is scheduled to be held in September. Although the LDP had planned to hold a vote in late September, “there won’t be much momentum for a LDP presidential campaign amid the ongoing Diet session entering the final stretch,” according to a person close to Abe. The reorganization of the cabinet and the LDP leadership will likely be pushed back to October. There is also view that the personnel changes will be minor.
LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters at the Diet building on June 22: “There is no procedural obstacle to conducting (a presidential election) while the Diet is in session.” So saying, he emphasized that it is possible to carry out a presidential election while the Diet is in session.
There are no rival candidates to challenge Abe in the LDP. Although there are some LDP lawmakers who are dissatisfied with Abe, it would be difficult for them to obtain recommendations from 20 LDP members, the minimum number required to run in a LDP presidential race, while taking an “anti-Abe” stance.
“Mr. Tanigaki decided to substantially extend the ongoing session probably because he thinks there is a strong possibility that new president will be decided without an election.”
The LDP decided in 1991 to change the timing of its presidential elections from October to September. After 1991, most elections have been held when the Diet was not in session.
Most cabinet reshuffles have also been carried out when the Diet was not in session. There is a view that “if the cabinet is reshuffled in October, it will be difficult to change many cabinet members” because there will not be much time until the extraordinary Diet session in the fall.
If countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks reach a broad agreement, the contents of negotiations and draft agreement will become a point of contention during the extra Diet session in the fall. Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization Akira Amari, who has also served as TPP minister since March 2013, will likely remain in his current posts. If Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Japan before the end of 2015, it will be difficult to replace Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida because he has developed a good relationship with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who have supported Abe since the inauguration of the second Abe cabinet in December 2012, are expected to be retained in their current posts.
There is much talk about Kishida and Suga as possible candidates for the future secretary general of the LDP, but if the two are kept in their current posts, Tanigaki will likely remain in his post as secretary general.
Abe conducted a major reshuffle last September, replacing 12 of the 18 cabinet members. He had a difficult time immediately afterward when ministers resigned in succession due to political funds scandals.