All national dailies reported extensively on internal maneuvering within the ruling LDP over the selection of the next party president to succeed departing Prime Minister Abe, noting that the LDP is set to officially decide today to hold an abbreviated leadership election on Sept. 14. A three-day special Diet session to elect a new premier will likely be convened on Sept. 16, a day earlier than originally planned.
According to the papers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga met with several LDP heavyweights and groups of junior and mid-career lawmakers on Monday to seek their support for his candidacy. While the politician has remained noncommittal on his candidacy in public by saying he needs to fulfill his duties as the top government spokesman, Suga has reportedly told his associates behind the scenes: “I am ready to run” and “We need to strike a balance between measures to combat COVID-19 and economic reconstruction. Every country has been doing so.”
According to the dailies, the LDP’s two largest factions – the Hosoda faction with 98 lawmakers, including PM Abe, and the Aso faction with 55 members – decided yesterday that they will back Suga’s candidacy. The two groups have reportedly chosen to support Suga since Abe and his close confidant Deputy Prime Minister Aso want the next LDP president to continue the Abe administration’s policies. Aso reportedly met yesterday with Defense Minister Kono, who is a member of his faction, and pressed him not to run in the race. The Nikai faction, Ishihara faction, and Takeshita faction are also likely to endorse Suga. Yomiuri speculated that almost 60% of LDP Diet members are in favor of electing Suga.
The papers said that although Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida and former Secretary General Ishiba are also set to run in the election, they have already been pushed into a tight corner even before the start of the official campaign on Sept. 8. While the prime minister and Aso had previously viewed Kishida as Abe’s successor, they reportedly lost confidence in his policy coordination capabilities over the controversial COVID-19 cash handout program in May. When meeting with Kishida yesterday at the Kantei, Abe reportedly turned down the former foreign minister’s request for his support.
As for Ishiba, the papers said even some of his followers are insisting that he should not run for party president based on the assessment that he might suffer a crushing defeat in an abbreviated election involving only the 394 LDP parliamentarians and 3 delegates from each of the party’s 47 prefectural chapters since he is “disliked” by many LDP parliamentarians.