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Kishida, Ishiba differ in response to cabinet appointment, brace for future premier race

  • August 3, 2016
  • , Yomiuri , p. 2
  • Translation

Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 59, and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, 59, both regarded as possible successors to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, differed in their response to the cabinet reshuffle on Aug. 3. Ishiba declined an offer to become the minister of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries and opted to leave the cabinet, while Kishida accepted his reappointment as foreign minister. The responses of these two rivals are both meant to enhance their prospects when Abe’s term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president expires in September 2018, although the outlook is still unclear at this point.

 

In his news conference after the cabinet meeting on Aug. 2, Ishiba said: “It is important for the LDP to have diverse opinions in the party,” indicating his decision to leave the cabinet. He will now develop a vision for a future administration as the culmination of his political career. While he maintains that he will continue to support the Abe cabinet, the Prime Minister’s aides have reacted sharply to this statement regarded as an “anti-Abe declaration.”

 

Most members of the LDP’s Ishiba faction were demanding that Ishiba leave the cabinet. This is because Ishiba’s signature policy of regional revitalization had been overshadowed by the policy for dynamic engagement of all citizens and he had been distressed that “he was not able to make his presence felt,” according to an aide. Ishiba, who is making a fresh start, told his aides on Aug. 2 of his desire to visit the regions from now on and that the more visits he makes, the more votes he will attract.

 

One of his close aides stated: “It doesn’t matter if he does not get any position for now. He will be able to change the tide by just declaring that he is against the extension of the president’s term.” This is also interpreted as Ishiba staking his fate on joining the non-mainstream factions.

 

Meanwhile, Kishida, who has been the foreign minister since the start of the second Abe cabinet, opted again to remain in the cabinet. Kishida faction members are disappointed because they were hoping for the position of LDP secretary general. On the other hand, the prevailing mood was also to avoid the risk of being outside the cabinet. Therefore, it was decided that the short cut to power for Kishida is to “accumulate more achievements and build his strength.” Adopting an opposite position from Ishiba will leave the possibility open for Abe to “abdicate” in favor of him. However, there is also an opinion on the Prime Minister’s side that if Kishida’s moves to make himself the successor become too blatant, “they will be suppressed.” (Slightly abridged)

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