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POLITICS > Elections

PM Abe trying to win over junior lawmakers with eye on LDP presidential race

  • February 21, 2018
  • , Sankei , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

On the night of Feb. 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), dined with the party’s third-term elected House of Representatives members at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence [Kotei]. In February, the prime minister has repeatedly dined with the LDP’s junior lawmakers who were elected  one to three times. Regarding the purpose of dining together, one of Abe’s aides explained, “To tighten his grip on the party’s junior members and give them an opportunity to talk with the prime minister,” but Abe, bearing in mind the LDP presidential election slated for September, is apparently attempting to win the hearts of junior lawmakers.


“I am glad that everyone was elected,” Abe told the approximately 20 third-term elected House of Representative members invited to the Kotei on the night of Feb. 13. They were elected in the last House of Representatives election. At the same time, probably bearing in mind the second-term junior lawmakers who are called “troublemakers,” Abe did not forget to warn them, saying, “I encourage you to take good care of your secretaries because many lawmakers have ruined their lives over trouble with their secretaries.”


In the meeting held on Feb. 20, there were present some lawmakers who represent Osaka Prefecture, so Abe said he would make active efforts to bring the 2025 Expo to Osaka, which the Osaka prefectural government hopes to host. 


In February, Abe invited about 20 junior lawmakers according to the following schedule: first-term Diet members on Feb. 1; second-term members on Feb. 8; and third-term members on Feb. 13, 19 and 20. During the meeting with the first-term lawmakers, Abe emphasized, “The most important job for first-term members is to win a second term (in the next House of Representative election). In the meeting with the two-term members, Abe enthusiastically explained his proposal for constitutional revision by writing the Self-Defense Forces into the supreme law and called for their “taking the lead in participating in discussions on constitutional amendment.”


It is not unusual for Abe to invite and dine with lawmakers as groups according to their terms in the Diet. However, given the fact that an LDP presidential election is scheduled in six months and each LDP faction is becoming active behind the scenes, his invitation seems related to the party’s presidential election.


 Abe is paying especial attention to the moves of former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, who does not hide his ambition to run in the next presidential election. In the LDP presidential election held in 2012, Ishiba garnered more local votes than Abe. Beginning February, Ishiba began actively making campaign trips through local regions in careful preparation for the next presidential election.


On the contrary, Abe is busy responding to interpellations in the Diet during the week and has no time to leave Tokyo. Under the circumstances, Abe is seemingly trying to have junior LDP lawmakers understand him better. That is especially true for many of the first-term lawmakers who dined with Abe for the first time. “The prime minister has a sense of humor, making everyone laugh, and I feel there is now less distance between him and us,” said one of them.


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