Tokyo, Sept. 10 (Jiji Press)–Members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party are already jockeying for party board and cabinet posts under a government expected to be led by Yoshihide Suga, currently chief cabinet secretary.
The five party factions backing Suga, who is viewed as a shoo-in in Monday’s election for picking a new president of the LDP, are now pressing him for appointments despite the chief cabinet secretary’s goal of doing away with factional politics.
Suga is widely expected to win the leadership race as his rivals, LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, lag far behind in gaining support within the party.
The new LDP president will certainly be chosen as prime minister in an election to be held at the Diet, Japan’s parliament, on Wednesday, thanks to the party’s comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late last month announced a decision to step down as prime minister due to ill health.
Suga was met with cheers from some 15 lawmakers from a faction led by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai on Wednesday. Suga thanked them for throwing their support behind him in just a few days from the start of the election period.
Nikai was one of the first LDP members to back Suga’s bid for LDP leadership, and many expect that he be rewarded for the decision by staying on as the party’s secretary-general.
“If (Suga) becomes president, I believe he’ll keep that in mind when thinking about personnel appointments,” Takeo Kawamura, deputy head of the faction, said of Nikai’s swift support for Suga when speaking to reporters on Sunday.
Other factions are also vying for powerful posts. A veteran member of the faction led by former LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, the largest faction in the party, said that the faction wants the post of chief cabinet secretary, while a member of the faction led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso said, “We’ll take what we can take.”
“If (Suga) does not look after those waiting to enter the cabinet, he’ll stumble quickly,” one former cabinet minister said, suggesting that demands for appointments will only intensify.
Meanwhile, Suga stressed in a press conference Tuesday that he, if elected prime minister, will prioritize members’ expertise and drive for reform when deciding on ministerial appointments, implying that he will not be swayed by recommendations from factions.
However, the reality is that Suga’s standing in the party is fragile as he does not belong to any faction. Even if he becomes prime minister, Suga may soon find himself a lame duck if he loses the support of factions, observers said.
Under such circumstances, some among Suga’s supporters admit that the first appointments must be made based on factions.
Kishida and Ishiba, whose chances of victory are becoming slimmer by the day, have some concern about how they will be treated under a Suga-led government.
One middle-ranking Kishida supporter predicted that Suga will not be so harsh on Kishida, as the LDP policy chief has been supportive of Abe.
On the other hand, Ishiba, who has been a vocal critic of the Abe administration, is widely expected to get the cold shoulder. “No one is expecting anything regarding personnel appointments,” one senior member of Ishiba’s camp said.