The Kochi-kai faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Policy Chief Fumio Kishida is growing perturbed as its long-held hope of producing a prime minister, who also serves as the party president, becomes more and more unlikely to be realized.
The direct cause of the turmoil is Makoto Koga, honorary chairman of the faction. He commended Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and indicated his intention to put Kishida on the back burner.
Kishida, who “inherited” the faction from Koga, has a strong sense of obligation to him. Koga’s ability to control the faction and collect funds far exceeds Kishida’s.
Koga’s change of heart has sent shock waves through the faction since he is the faction’s biggest guardian. A mid-ranking Diet member complains, “It would be better if Abe were elected to a fourth consecutive term than if Suga were to succeed him.” Another Diet member laments, “This wouldn’t have happened if [Kishida] had run in the party’s presidential race last year.” Furthermore, rumors are constantly circulating that Lower House member Seiji Kihara, the most prominent policy expert in the faction, who has been supporting Kishida in policymaking, is disappointed by Kishida’s indecisiveness and considering moving to other faction. Kochi-kai has lost its dynamism while Suga is enjoying increased popularity as “Reiwa Ojisan” [Uncle Reiwa, a nickname he earned when he presented Japan’s new era name on April 1].