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Aso professes continued support for Abe after forming second largest LDP faction

A new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction formed by the merger of the Aso and Santo factions was officially launched on July 3. The new faction, the Shikokai headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, consists of 59 Diet members, overtaking the Nukaga faction (55 members) as the second largest faction in the party.

 

At the news conference held at a hotel in Tokyo to announce the new faction, Aso wrote the characters for the sign of the Shikokai with ink and brush. The faction’s deputy chair, former Vice Speaker Akiko Santo, and “acting” chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Administration Chairman Tsutomu Sato, were also present.

 

What Aso emphasized most at the news conference was that his new faction would continue to support the Abe administration. He said “We believe that giving strong support to the Abe administration is in the national interest and have no doubt at all about supporting the Abe administration at its core.”

 

The new faction was formed by 44 members from the Aso faction, 10 members from the Santo faction, and 5 defectors from the Tanigaki group, including Sato.

 

However, it is still unclear if the new faction will gain momentum. Aso envisions forming a “Grand Kochikai” by merging with the Kishida faction (45 members) in the future to become the main counterforce to Abe’s Hosoda faction (96 members). Yet Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who hopes to become the prime minister after Abe, is not keen on the merger plan for fear of being betrayed by Aso at the critical moment.

 

Party members are also wary of Aso’s ambition to become the “kingmaker.” If factional rivalry intensifies within the LDP, this may also destabilize the administration. (Abridged)

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