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Kantei increasing its influence in Upper House

By Tamiyuki Kihara


It looks like Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko will be appointed secretary-general for the LDP in the House of Councillors. Seko is one of Abe’s aides and belongs to the Hosoda faction, which is also Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s home base. Seko’s appointment will change the power relations between the Upper House LDP members and the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei]. To date, there has been a certain level of tension between the two so Seko’s appointment means Abe may gain in influence.


Appointments aimed at accelerating debate on Constitution


Moves are underway for Upper House Rules and Administration Committee Chairperson Shinsuke Suematsu of the Hosoda faction to be appointed chairperson of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee in the Upper House and for former Minister of State for Measures for the Declining Birthrate Masaji Matsuyama of the Kishida faction to be placed in the position of chairperson of the LDP Policy Board in the Upper House. The plan is to put Hosoda faction members in core positions in the house.


Seko met with Masakazu Sekiguchi, head of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, at the National Diet Building on Sept. 9. They discussed personnel assignments for Upper House leaders and management of the Upper House going forward.


In the Upper House, Hiromi Yoshida of the Takeshita faction has exercised power as secretary-general for the LDP in the House of Councillors. Yoshida is in a teacher-student relationship with former head of the LDP’s Upper House caucus Mikio Aoki, who has continued to have influence in politics even after his retirement. Led by Yoshida, the Takeshita faction has made its own presence felt. For example, it supported former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba in the party president election last year.


With the July Upper House election, Yoshida retired. More and more people near the Prime Minister were saying that Abe should take this opportunity to decrease the power of the Takeshita faction by putting one of his aides in the secretary-general position.


For Prime Minister Abe, managing the Upper House is critical if he is going to promote debate on constitutional amendment. This is because he must get opposition party members in the Upper House on board [with constitutional amendment] because those amenable to constitutional reform, including the ruling parties and the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), hold less than two-thirds of the seats in the house after the recent election. A concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each house is needed to initiate constitutional amendments. A high-ranking official in the Hosoda faction welcomes Seko’s appointment, saying, “The Upper House will be able to fulfill its role under a strong secretary-general.”


Some Upper House LDP members express concern, however. As a middle-echelon Takeshita faction member said: “Coordination within the party and with the opposition parties will be difficult with a secretary-general who blindly follows the Prime Minister.” First, it will have to be seen how the October extraordinary session is handled. Seko’s skill will be tested.

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