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Is a “grand Kochikai” vision possible?

  • January 13, 2017
  • , Mainichi , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

Discussions on a “grand Kochikai” vision, which is aimed at merging the Kishida faction, Aso faction and Tanigaki group within the Liberal Democratic Party, are heating up, as all of these factions were originally part of the “Kochikai” formed by Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda. They hope to become a counterweight to the Hosoda faction, from which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hails, with an eye on a “post-Abe” landscape, but they have different intentions for the merger. 

 

The Kochikai was split into the Kishida faction (45 members), Aso faction (40) and Tanigaki group (about 10) as a result of infighting over the leadership within the faction. A grand Kochikai vision is aimed at reuniting them. If combined, the faction will have about 95 members. In numbers, they would rival the Hosoda faction (led by Hiroyuki Hosoda), which has 96 members and is the largest faction in the party.

 

The grand Kochikai vision has been floated several times before. But since last year, exchanges among the three factions have increased, as their veterans, mid-career, and junior members are meeting frequently. In December, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso met for summit talks. This month, junior members of the three factions are planning to hold a meeting.

 

Discussions on the merger of the three factions gained momentum when the LDP decided to extend the term of LDP president to three consecutive terms of nine years from two consecutive terms of six years. The three factions all presume that Abe will be elected to a third term in September 2018 and stay in office until September 2021, but they have different ideas about the future

 

Kishida faction

 

The Kishida faction seeks to field its leader Kishida in the “post-Abe” race in 2021. Kishida has served as foreign minister and acted as a linchpin of the government since the establishment of the second Abe cabinet in 2012. The faction expects him to be named as Abe’s successor. There is a possibility that he will not run for LDP president in 2018. Instead he is looking four years ahead eyeing a long-term vision. 

 

Aso faction

 

Meanwhile, the Aso faction is led by Aso, who is now 76 years old. Some people in the faction envisage that Aso will be pitched in as “prime minister for a second time” in case Abe cannot fulfill his term due to a health problem or other unpredictable events happen.

 

But in principle, the faction is not looking for a “post-Abe” seat. Rather it aims to strengthen its political foundation through the creation of a grand Kochikai. A veteran member points out, “While the Hosoda faction is becoming bigger, we are at the mercy of our rivals each time the cabinet is reshuffled.” For the time being, the faction is looking to broaden its influence.

 

Within the faction, some people are calling for merging with the Tanigaki group first to have an edge in merger negotiations with the Kishida faction, which outnumbers it.

 

Tanigaki group

 

It remains unforeseen when former Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, advisor at the Tanigaki group, will be able to recover from bicycle injuries that he sustained in July and resume his political activities. Its members want to use a grand Kochikai as a venue to collaborate with others. (Abridged)

 

 

LDP faction strengths

Hosoda

96

Grand Kochikai

95?

Nukaga

54

Kishida

45

Nikai

41

Aso

40

Ishiba

20

Ishihara

15

Santo

11

Tanigaki

About 10

Notes: The membership only represents the LDP and does not include the Prime Minister, Lower House Speaker, and Upper House President. The Santo group includes LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura. The Tanigaki group counts only core members as some of its members are in other factions.

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