Toshihiro Nikai is known as a “political migrant.” In 1993, he left the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and set up the Japan Renewal Party with Ichiro Ozawa (currently leader of People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends) after approving a no-confidence motion against the Miyazawa cabinet. He then shifted to the New Frontier Party and later joined the Liberal Party, but he split with Ozawa after a conflict over policy direction.
Since rejoining the LDP, he has focused on expanding his faction. The Nikai faction now has 36 members, three of whom joined in the past year. It is expected that three more will join.
To the extent that the party secretary-general is in charge of personnel assignments, endorsement of candidates in elections, and handling of party funds, there is a chance that Nikai’s influence will increase further. A wary leader of another faction said, “Nikai uses power differently from Tanigaki.”
In terms of policies, his name has become synonymous with the “National Resilience Plan,” a plan to expand public works nationwide to develop disaster-resilient infrastructure. Nikai proposed public works spending worth “200 trillion yen over a 10-year period.” Drawing on lessons learned from a huge tsunami that years ago hit Hirogawa, a town near his hometown in Wakayama Prefecture, Nikai approached the United Nations about tsunami countermeasures. As a result, last year November 5 was designated as “World Tsunami Awareness Day.”
In more recent days, a Diet members’ league that he heads drafted proposals for moving up the completion date for the entire Linear Chuo Shinkansen Line being constructed by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) and for developing port facilities capable of accommodating cruise ships. It looks like these proposals will be included in the government’s economic measures set to be passed by the cabinet on Aug. 2.
Some middle-ranking LDP Diet members are concerned about Nikai, saying, “If he is allowed to get away with any more public works projects, won’t it look like a return to the old LDP?”