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Nikai emerging as leading candidate to succeed Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • 2015-08-20 15:00:00
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(Facta: September 2015 – p. 84-87)


 The chances of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe being re-elected as Liberal Democratic Party President and winning the race uncontested are growing strong. Along with that speculation, the Nagatacho – Japan’s center of politics – is paying close attention to who will succeed Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.


 The leading candidate is Toshihiro Nikai. Politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders are casting doubts on the sustainability of the Abe government. To win over their trust, a big name is needed.


 Nikai made his mark during the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. When the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan was facing difficulty securing enough coffins for the dead, he used all his connections to collect them. That is still being talked about in political and business circles.


 If Nikai is named as chief cabinet secretary, a sense of calm will spread among politicians, businesses, and bureaucrats both at home and abroad, including construction firms, the Ministry of Finance, LDP, Soka Gakkai, and China and South Korea. The government will be also able to concentrate during the second half of the year on compiling budgets for the next fiscal year.


 Nikai is well aware of those political speculations. On August 9, he announced his faction’s unanimous support for Abe’s reelection to LDP President. When party members suggested that the race should not be held uncontested, he responded: “It doesn’t matter because the results would be the same.” His official support for Abe appears to assure him of the next chief cabinet secretary post, as he will become the biggest contributor to “Abe’s reelection.”


 The next hopeful is Sadakazu Tanigaki. However supportive Nikai becomes, Abe is afraid of him and does not know much about him. Yasuhiro Nakasone, Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi all had tough guys – Masaharu Gotoda, Seiroku Kajiyama and Hiromu Nonaka, respectively – as their right-hand men and forged equal partnerships with them, because they were also tough and had careers and pride.


 Abe lacks the strength and ability to make use of the seasoned politician. If he dithers, Tanigaki would probably be the best pick for chief cabinet secretary. He is well-educated. He does not betray others and can control his emotions. He also has experience. He is well-liked and is not likely to draw ire from the party’s old heavyweights. His stability will also reassure the public. The only drawback is that he is a staunch advocate of fiscal integrity. If he is chosen as chief cabinet secretary, the LDP may have to sacrifice its Abenomics legacy and raise the consumption tax.


 Nagatacho is also buzzing with rumors that Tomomi Inada, Abe’s favorite, may be tapped as chief cabinet secretary. The lawyer-turned politician never puts her foot in her mouth and is good at explaining things in clear-cut language. Her scant experience as politician makes it difficult to gauge her potential, but she has her sights set on becoming the first female prime minister in Japan.


 Another possible scenario is that if either Tanigaki or Nikai is picked as chief cabinet secretary, Inada will be appointed as the LDP’s first female secretary-general and lead the party’s campaign in the House of Councillors election next summer. If Tanigaki becomes chief cabinet secretary, Nikai will become the wirepuller behind her. And if Nikai becomes chief cabinet secretary, Tanigaki will be promoted to LDP Vice President.


 In either case, the personnel allocations of Nikai, Tanigaki, and Inada will become a focal point in the selection of Suga’s successor. (Summary)

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