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Abe-Kishida meeting on April 16 may signify Kishida will wait for handover of premiership

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] president) dined with Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida at a Korean barbecue restaurant in Tokyo on the evening of April 16. Kishida is in the limelight regarding his plans for the LDP presidential election in September amid the sagging cabinet support ratings resulting from the Moritomo Gakuen affair, the vice finance minister’s alleged sexual harassment, and other scandals. It appears that this dinner strongly indicated that Kishida would wait for the LDP presidency to be handed over to him in the next election after the upcoming one.

 

This was the second time for Kishida to dine with Abe since he became the LDP’s policy chief. Their first dinner was on Jan. 25. In their conversation on the presidential election, Kishida reportedly said that he “remains undecided.”

 

He added: “People have various opinions about me, but I will keep saying the same thing (to other people).”

 

This remark can be interpreted to mean that as the head of the Koichi-kai (Kishida faction), he is unable to state right now that he will not run in the presidential election in September. It appears that he took advantage of this rare opportunity to dine with Abe to convey his real intent.

 

Abe has been able to obtain the support of the Hosoda faction (Seiwa-kai), the no. 1 LDP faction, the no. 2 Aso faction (Shiko-kai), and the Nikai faction (Shisui-kai) led by Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai in the presidential election. On the other hand, some members of the Kishida faction, the No. 4 faction, insist that Kishida should run.

 

Under pressure from these members, Kishida has been voicing his opinion on the Prime Minister recently, such as: “The people are taking a very negative view. He must take proper measures to restore trust.” Certain Kishida faction members also assert that Kishida “will be overtaken by former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba if he stays in the same boat with the Prime Minister.”

 

Abe suspects Kishida of false loyalty and betrayal behind his back, while Kishida maintains an ambivalent stance. The two agreed at their meeting that under the current difficult situation, “the government and the ruling parties should work hand-in-hand to make efforts to restore trust.” Although they set their next dinner appointment when they dined in January, they made no such plans this time.

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