Politicians who are hoping to become the next Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are actively campaigning in the House of Representatives election. With the next LDP presidential election taking place in less than a year next September, where they are campaigning and what they are telling the voters is also a focus of interest.
If the ruling parties succeed in this election as the opinion polls seem to indicate, Abe’s leadership is likely to become stronger. The campaign speeches made by these politicians also reflect their distance from Abe.
LDP Policy Research Council (PRC) Chairman Fumio Kishida said in his speech in front of JR Urawa Station in Saitama Prefecture on Oct. 16: “What has changed in the last five years? We are unmistakably able to feel the fruits of economic growth.” He went on to criticize the opposition parties’ “continuing disarray” and asked his audience: “To whom would you entrust the administration in the face of North Korea’s threat and the issues brought about by the low birth rate and aging population?
As a top executive of the party, while Kishida does not mention Abe’s name, he tends to stress the achievements of the administration. He has avoided conflict with Abe and supported him up until now even though Abe belongs to a different faction and embraces a different ideology. His basic strategy is to build his power as the “successor” inside the administration. Taking advantage of his position as the LDP policy chief, he campaigns not only in the constituencies of his faction members, but also in the electoral districts of other PRC officers.
Former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba’s style contrasts sharply with Kishida’s. On Oct. 17, he campaigned in several locations in Niigata City for incumbent Lower House members from his faction. On the previous day, Oct. 16, he spent a whole day campaigning for an Ishiba faction incumbent in Akita City.
Whether the junior members of his faction, who have weak political bases, get elected will have a direct impact on Ishiba’s own position in the party. He said he is making every effort to help every faction member get elected.
Ishiba pointed out in a speech in Tokyo on Oct. 10: “Bold monetary easing under the Abenomics policies has benefited major corporations. What will happen to agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and the rural areas? We need new policies.”
While he does not criticize Abe directly, he does pay attention to the voters’ discontent with the arrogance of a prolonged administration. He has stated straightforwardly: “I would like to build an LDP that is humble and honest and that shares your sense that something is not right.” He almost never mentions the achievements of the current administration.
Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda, who has ambitions to become the first female prime minister of Japan, campaigned for female incumbent Lower House members in Niigata Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture on Oct. 17. She chooses constituencies where female candidates are facing tough battles to make her campaign speeches, in which she talks about childrearing support and empowerment of women.
Like Ishiba, she is mindful of the voters’ negative opinion of the administration and often mentions “remorse.”
She stated in Tokyo on Oct. 14: “Relying on the high cabinet support rating and Prime Minister Abe’s popularity, have we really moved (politics) forward? I would like to build a new LDP based on our reflection in the face of strong criticism.” She also says that her role is to voice criticism inside the administration and proclaims herself to be the “woman Prime Minister Abe steers clear of.” (Slightly abridged)