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POLITICS

Kishida and Aso factions rapidly growing closer

  • February 6, 2020
  • , Sankei , p. 5
  • JMH Translation

By Nobuhiro Imanaka

 

Liberal Democratic Party Policy (LDP) Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida, who heads the party’s Kishida faction (Kochikai; 46 members), and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who heads the LDP’s Aso faction (Shikokai; 54 members), are rapidly forming close ties. The Aso faction split from the Kochikai a number of years ago. A candidate to succeed Abe, Kishida has his sights set on the next party president election and has been holding meetings with Aso and key members of his faction. Aso has hinted that he will support Kishida. This brings to mind the vision to reestablish the Kochikai by merging the factions, but caution about such a merger is still strong-rooted in the two factions.

 

On the evening of Feb. 4, Kishida dined with Aso faction secretary-general Jun Matsumoto. After the last party president election in 2018, Kishida held meetings with high-ranking officials in the Aso faction and was given last year the “handbook” for becoming a candidate in the presidential election. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has referred to Kishida as a leading candidate to be his successor. A middle-echelon member of the Kishida faction comments: “If Kishida is going to join hands with ‘Team Abe,’ he will need to join hands with Aso, Abe’s ally. It will be easy for him to do so because the Aso faction is descended from Kochikai.”

 

In an interview that appeared in the January edition of monthly magazine Bungei Shunju, Aso said, “The chances are thought to be good (omission) that the mild Kishida will succeed the slightly abrasive Abe.” Aso has said to those around him, “Kishida himself is quite aware and recognizes the position he is in.”

 

The Aso faction is not the only one that Kishida hopes to partner with. On the evening of Jan. 23, Kishida dined with LDP General Council Chairperson and Aso faction deputy chair Shunichi Suzuki and former Diet affairs chief Ichiro Aisawa of the Tanigaki group (Yurinkai), which also descends from the now-defunct Kochikai. An attendee at the dinner said, “I had the sense that as chair of the Kochikai, Kishida would have to be prime minister.”

 

If the idea to re-form Kochikai were realized, the group would have about 100 people and it would be the largest faction, superseding the Hosoda faction (Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai; 97 members). “Kishida would not be able to handle the faction,” comments a high-ranking member of the Aso faction. There is more than a little caution in the Kishida faction over merging. As a junior member of the faction says, “The Aso faction has more members and so would take the lead.” Some say that a loose relationship should be formed where the Aso faction supports Kishida in the party presidential election. Moreover, it looks like attention will also be given to the moves of Kochikai honorary chairperson Makoto Koga, who is distant from Aso.

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