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LDP Takeshita faction leaning toward supporting Abe in presidential race

In light of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida bowing out of the party’s presidential election, the number three Takeshita faction (with 55 members) is now leaning toward supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reelection for a third term. With the factions jumping on the Abe bandwagon on account of his advantage in the race, the opposition is voicing the cynical view that “the LDP is completely dominated by Prime Minister Abe.”


General Council Chairman Wataru Takeshita, leader of the Takeshita faction, met with the faction’s elder, former House of Councillors President Mikio Aoki in Tokyo on July 25. In a speech delivered at the party headquarters later that day, Takeshita said: “I was planning to decide on the faction’s position around the Bon holidays [mid-August], but the situation has moved faster than expected.” He thus indicated that the faction will advance its decision on whom to support in the presidential election.


So far, Takeshita had complimented all the prospective candidates in the presidential race: Abe, Kishida, and former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba. While stating that Kishida’s policies are closest to his own, he had also criticized Abe’s response to the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen affairs. His faction prioritizes the Upper House election in summer 2019, in which faction members, including Hiromi Yoshida, secretary general of the LDP Upper House caucus, will be up for reelection. It was concerned about the impact of the Moritomo and Kake issues on the election.


However, in his 40-minute speech on July 25, Takeshita repeatedly praised Abe’s foreign and economic policies, while the only thing he said about Ishiba was “he is certain to run.” Faction members are now saying that “the tide is turning toward supporting Prime Minister Abe.”


Previously, the faction’s chief secretary Taimei Yamaguchi, head of the LDP Organization and Campaign Headquarters, had declared his support for Abe at his political fundraising party in June, stating: “We would like him to win a third term and go into the Japan-DPRK negotiations with a solid political base.” Senior faction officials are already calling on leaders of industrial groups to support Abe in the presidential election and starting their campaign to win rank-and-file party members’ votes based on the view that “this faction will break up if it does not support Abe.”


However, one faction officer gives the analysis that “70% of faction members support Abe and the rest support Ishiba.” Certain officers are talking about the possibility of their being allowed to vote freely in the presidential race.


The Takeshita faction’s giving its support to Abe will come as a heavy blow to Ishiba, who is hoping for its support since he was once a member of the Nukaga faction, the Takeshita faction’s predecessor.


Democratic Party for the People co-leader Yuichiro Tamaki gave the following comments on Abe’s increasing advantage in the LDP election during a radio program on July 25:


“[The LDP] is really losing its diversity. There used to be tension and competition between factions in the party, which served to make it better, but it is now a monotone.”

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