While Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is on track to win the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sept. 14, the focus among party members is shifting to the post-election cabinet lineup and appointment of party executives. The appointment of a chief cabinet secretary to replace Suga if he becomes the next prime minister is attracting the most attention. Several names are being bandied about as candidates for the next government spokesperson.
On the morning of Sept. 9, Suga had breakfast with LDP parliamentary affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama and Motoo Hayashi, acting secretary-general and a close aide to Secretary-General Toshihiko Nikai, at a hotel near the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei]. When Suga was given a detailed schedule including the appointment of party executives on Sept. 15 and the cabinet formation on Sept. 16 by Moriyama and Hayashi, Suga reportedly said in astonishment, “The schedule is so tight.”
In terms of Diet management, Suga places full confidence in Moriyama, who has been leading the party’s Diet Affairs Committee for more than three years.
Suga told Nikai and Moriyama his intention to run in the party leadership race on Aug. 29 before anyone else. A middle-ranking LDP member speculates, “Suga may retain Nikai in his post and appoint Moriyama as chief cabinet secretary.”
Meanwhile, at a meeting of a group of lawmakers who are not affiliated with any faction comprising former Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and others held on Sept. 9, participants called for the appointment of Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, who attended the meeting, as chief cabinet secretary. Kajiyama’s father is former Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama, whom Suga looks up to as a mentor in politics. An LDP insider says, “The appointment of a lawmaker who is not affiliated with any faction to the post of chief cabinet secretary would enable Suga to emphasize his departure from factional maneuvering.”
Others are pushing for the appointment of Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Katsunobu Kato or Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda, both of whom supported Suga as deputy chief cabinet secretary, as chief cabinet secretary.
Enthusiasm for reform
At a joint press conference on Sept. 8, Suga was asked whether he will take factional balance into consideration in personnel appointments if he is elected LDP president and prime minister. Suga underscored, “The right person should be appointed to the right job,” adding that he values people “who have enthusiasm for reform” and “who have specialized knowledge.”
The remarks have given rise to speculation that Minister of Defense Taro Kono of the faction led by Taro Aso will be chosen as the new chief cabinet secretary. Kono is known as a reformist and Suga has had his eye on him for a long time as both of them were elected from Kanagawa Prefecture. At a press conference on Sept. 8, Kono said, “I want to consider how to reactivate the Japanese economy amid the coronavirus outbreak and steadily do my part,” indicating his hope to become an economic minister. (Abridged)