By Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (concurrently serving as president of the Liberal Democratic Party) is adept at running the country. The public has trust in him and feels confident in the way he handles things. Looking at internal affairs overall, there is no need to change the leadership. On foreign policy, he maintains an equal partnership with U.S. President Donald Trump in dealing with the North Korean issue. These contribute to the public’s trust in him.
Abe is firmly on track to be reelected as LDP president for a third term. I have no doubt that he will be reelected for a third term. This summer, Shisuikai (the Nikai faction) will hold a seminar in Seoul, which I believe will present a good opportunity for us to demonstrate our support for his reelection at home and abroad.
If there are no good candidates to challenge him, it would be better for the election to be uncontested. But some people argue that several candidates should complete for the post over policies. This is not a bad idea, but Japan must not end up with a leader whose commitment is half-hearted.
Former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba is a talented politician. For the LDP to move forward, the party must cultivate three or five promising candidates for leadership. Otherwise, there will be no future for us. In that sense, people such as Ishiba and LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida are hopefuls and I want them to do their best. Chief Deputy Secretary-General Shinjiro Koizumi also has a great deal of potential.
But this does not mean we should hold an unnecessary presidential election. Bringing confusion and chaos to the party is not what we want. A candidate who makes a turnaround after losing the presidential election will not gain any support.
As secretary-general, I’m busy every single day. It’s a tough job. I don’t want to stay in this post for an extended period of time. I was appointed by the LDP president, so I’m doing my utmost to fulfill my duties for the period that I’m in the post.
The Niigata gubernatorial election was also a tough race, but I never once thought we would lose. The easiest way to achieve victory is to field good candidates. Without good candidates, we won’t win elections. It also matters whether we do our best to win the race.
The ruling parties are given opportunities to do their best and broaden their activities. So we must win elections. Our prime responsibility is to ensure we keep winning elections. We are also aiming to win the Okinawa gubernatorial race, which will be held in November.
We also attach importance to next year’s Upper House election. We will take the lead and not expect others to take care of selecting candidates. The opposition camp will field unified candidates for the 32 single-seat constituencies up for reelection. That is the only tactic they can adopt. Nonetheless we must make thorough preparations to win the race.
The consumption tax is scheduled to be raised to 10% in October 2019. Thus far no demands have been raised within the party for postponing this.
We must honestly tell the people that these are tough times and seek understanding for the tax increase. We need to get through this. There will be difficult times ahead in terms of politics as well as finances. Politicians must be prepared for this.
The extension of the current Diet session was a delicate issue, but another 32 days will give us sufficient time to thoroughly deliberate the issues. Since we have been granted this extension period, we must produce results. I will act responsibly to manage Diet deliberations.
Our ties with the Komeito party will remain unchanged. If we do whatever Komeito says, we would become a “Komeito-led government.” The Komeito leadership is well aware of this point.
But to manage the government, the LDP and Komeito must work together. That’s why I meet with the Komeito leadership once a week. We must avoid a situation in which our opinions end up clashing, so we deal with them respectfully.
Running a government is a daunting task. There are so many painful, harsh, and arduous things to endure. People outside the government may think that “once you’re in power, you can reap the benefits.” But in reality, you must shoulder all sorts of tough and painful burdens. If you are not prepared to do so, you should not think about taking the reins of power. (Abridged)