On May 10, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Sapporo City and dined with top officials of the Federation of Hokkaido Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Branches and others at Sapporo Beer Garden. Abe visited Hokkaido to attend a meeting there with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, but he used the free time in his schedule to solidify “party member votes” with an eye on being elected to a third term in the LDP presidential election to be held this autumn.
The Prime Minister feasted on “Genghis Khan mutton barbeque” with about 100 Diet members affiliated with the Hokkaido Federation as well as local assemblypersons and local business leaders. According to participants, the Prime Minister made a point of mentioning in his remarks that “(at the Japan-China summit held the previous day) we worked out a plan to export Hokkaido rice to China. I told Premier Li that ‘Hokkaido holds the key to the future of Japan.’” The crowd apparently broke out in applause when Hokkaido Federation Chairperson Takamori Yoshikawa of the Nikai faction said in his remarks, “Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai has told us to ‘give (the Prime Minister) solid support.’” Abe reportedly smiled as well. There is a deep sense of crisis in the administration because, as a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei] says, “There is strong opposition to the Prime Minister primarily in the regions.” When Abe visited Osaka last month, he dined with key members of the Federation of Osaka Prefecture LDP Branches. Out of consideration for them, he explicitly said that he is against the “Osaka Metropolis plan,” a Nippon Ishin proposal opposed by the Osaka Federation.
At a training session held on April 20 that attracted 800 LDP-affiliated local assemblypersons, an LDP legal advisor explained the Moritomo Gakuen issue and criticized media coverage of the matter. Abe is increasing his contact with local leaders who can directly influence LDP member votes.