Tokyo, July 20 (Jiji Press)–Influential Japanese politicians close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have started raising doubts about the wisdom of pushing ruling party policy chief Fumio Kishida as a potential successor to Abe.
The clout of Kishida, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, is not growing within the party.
Plans to back Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, instead of Kishida, have emerged, an effort to prevent former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba from taking power as Abe wishes, sources familiar with the situation said.
“Kishida is for peacetime, not for troubled times,” Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso told a colleague recently, indicating a change in his support of Kishida’s succession.
Earlier this year, Kishida’s coronavirus relief plan was scrapped in favor of another idea pushed by Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, a flip-flop illustrating his lack of influence.
In addition, Kishida lags far behind Ishiba in public opinion polls on the most suitable person to be prime minister after Abe.
“He would lose to Ishiba” in an LDP leadership race, an aide to Abe said of Kishida, showing a sense of crisis.
One cabinet member who is highly trusted by Abe said it would be better to have Suga succeed Abe. Suga has some support within the LDP and a good relationship with LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.
Abe has been aware of concerns over Kishida but he is hesitant to withdraw his support of the party policy chief. Abe pushed Kishida not to run in the 2018 LDP presidential election, in order to consolidate his own support, by suggesting that he would support Kishida as his successor in the future.
f choosing a successor to Abe becomes more like finding the most popular candidate among the public, it is hard to dismiss the possibility of a landslide victory for Ishiba, who is well known by the public.
“I wish (Kishida) would send more messages to the public,” Abe told a senior LDP official in the Kishida faction.
Abe may change his attitude toward Kishida, depending on the situation, sources familiar with his thinking said.