Interview with former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba by Keiko Takahashi
Q: What has happened to Prime Minister Abe’s single-handed domination of politics since the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election?
Ishiba: His predominance has been shaken. The Tomin First [Tokyoites First] party is now another conservative option. In the Tokyo assembly election, people who used to say that “there are all kinds of problems with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but it is still better than the Democratic Party” shifted their position drastically.
Q: It is said that what the LDP fears most right now is an alliance between you and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
Ishiba: Are there really people who are worried about that? I was the secretary general when the LDP returned to power. I am responsible for what the LDP is today.
Q: You once left the LDP. People say you might betray the LDP again.
Ishiba: That’s a mistaken idea. The issue is not betraying the LDP. The issue is betraying this country. I bolted the LDP when I was young to pursue my ideals. I am serving my 10th term in the House of Representatives now; I have served in the cabinet several times; and I am a former LDP secretary general. It is not my style to flee when the boat seems to be sinking or to regard Tomin First as the shortcut to taking over the administration because the party seems promising.
Q: I am asking you this next question because you are in a position of responsibility. The Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Foundation scandals and other issues caused by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his aides are undermining the LDP.
Ishiba: The people have not written the LDP off. When I voted for the motion of no confidence against (Prime Minister Kiichi) Miyazawa during the political reforms (of 1993), I said: “The LDP is an old car, but it is still in good shape. It is still fully serviceable if you change the driver and fix the defects.”
Q: Do you intend to become the next driver?
Ishiba: Whoever is suitable should become the driver. I don’t like to be pushy.
Q: But you need to offer an alternative.
Ishiba: I don’t think it is appropriate to say this and that before observing whether Abe is able to speak to the people sincerely at the forthcoming Budget Committee sessions (on July 24 in the House of Representatives and July 25 in the House of Councillors) and whether he handles the reshuffle of the cabinet and the LDP leadership properly.
Q: You are hoping there will be good results.
Ishiba: That’s why I am speaking up so that Mr. Abe can hear.
Q: It is said that the appointment of Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in the previous reshuffle is one reason the people have abandoned the LDP.
Ishiba: I think that is a major reason. She probably would have done better in some other field. There are people who have worked very hard in the area of defense behind the scenes unnoticed by anyone. I am often asked if I would accept a position in the next round of personnel changes if I were offered one. My answer is: “There are many party members who have been working unnoticed by anyone.”
Q: Do you think Shinjiro Koizumi (director of the LDP Agriculture and Forestry Division) will join the cabinet?
Ishiba: He will probably turn down the offer. He can become a minister after serving as state minister.
Q: You have argued that constitutional revision should be undertaken during the lifetime of those who experienced World War II. How is this different from Abe’s proposal to submit the LDP’s proposal to the extraordinary Diet session?
Ishiba: Doing something quickly is different from treating the deliberation process lightly. Speeding up this process means holding intensive discussions. I am proposing a general meeting of all LDP members, even for three or five days, to discuss the Constitution. I don’t understand why this can’t be done.