By Kentaro Ono
The following is an interview with Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.
Question: Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba put up a good fight in last month’s LDP presidential election. Do you think you can forge a party unity?
Toshihiro Nikai: The LDP is not divided at all, so we do not need to intentionally mention a party unity. The party has been operated extremely smoothly. All of the new party executives have rich experiences and I believe everyone is well-qualified. I have been serving my third term (as LDP secretary general) before I knew it. The post is very important, so I am determined to work hard.
Q: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (LDP president) is showing willingness to submit the party’s draft constitutional revisions to the extraordinary Diet session.
Nikai: I think he should take a more relaxed stance toward constitutional amendment. I think that we should continue discussions within the party and we will produce a party consensus. It is not too late for the party to start steadily working on the constitutional issue after getting the consensus. We don’t have to think where we should start discussing, or we don’t have to think about anything technical. We should humbly ask everyone to discuss the issue. That’s the best way, I think.
We have been getting along with Komeito for a long time and the coalition government has been successful. I believe we can get Komeito understand the constitutional issue if we thoroughly discuss with them. We do not need to think the coalition may not work well because of the constitutional issue.
Q: The opposition bloc is poised to continue pursuing the scandal involving Kake Educational Institute at the extraordinary Diet session.
Nikai: It is not appropriate to spend so much time on handling such an issue. We will not just wait but actively consult [with the opposition bloc] to some extent in order to swiftly respond to the issue.
Q: What kind of approach will the LDP take to the simultaneous local elections and the Upper House election next year?
Nikai: The secretary general’s job is mostly related to elections. It is very important to increase support for the LDP, but politics should not unnecessarily curry favor with the public. I believe the LDP only needs to settle down where it should while expressing its own opinions and thoughts.
Just because the opposition parties are joining forces, I don’t think we’ve got to do things as hard as we can against them. We should always make utmost efforts in operating the party. That’s important.
Q: Some people point out that the Prime Minister’s Office is taking the initiative in policymaking.
Nikai: Some people used to say the Prime Minister’s Office is taking the initiative [over the LDP]. But these days no one says such a stupid thing. People are not talking about it anymore. In politics, there is a political party and cabinet ministers are chosen from among its lawmakers. The cabinet does not come before the party, but the party comes before the cabinet. We only need not to misunderstand that. I don’t think the party will have to stand up against the Prime Minister’s Office, but I’m not saying the party is being pulled about by them.
Q: Who do you think is most suitable for the next LDP leader?
Nikai: Prime Minister Abe has just secured his third consecutive term as party president. The LDP is rich in human resources, so we can choose a next leader when the time comes. I am sure that the appropriate candidate will naturally become clear. We are not currently thinking (about revising the party rules to enable a party leader to serve for the fourth consecutive term.) But I don’t know because it is politics after all. (Slightly abridged)