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Formation of “parliamentary leagues” within LDP reveals lack of candidates for next leader

With more people getting vaccinated across the country, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally starting to emerge in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. This has triggered the opening of the political season in Nagatacho. With public support for the Suga cabinet falling, “parliamentary leagues” are recently taking center stage in political realignment with an eye on the presidential race for the Liberal Democratic Party and Diet dissolution for a snap election, both of which will take place in autumn.


Parliamentary leagues are a convenient tool for politicians to assemble with those outside their political affiliations and factional differences. The groups take on various roles, such as serving as points of contact with a promising industry and public-private initiatives. And in diplomacy, they act as a conduit with a specific nation. In particular, lawmakers attach the most importance to groups with politician implications.


Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s formation of parliamentary leagues has been particularly conspicuous of late. He has assumed key posts in groupings that focus on semiconductors, the promotion of battery infrastructure, and the fostering of friendship ties with Australia. Along with Abe, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Aso Taro and LDP tax commission chief Amari Akira are also deeply involved in these moves. The three politicians, who are known as “3A” because their family names all begin with A, are prime movers.


They say that there is “no political motive” behind the formation of groupings,” but no one takes this at face value. In the early 1990s, when the introduction of a single-seat constituency system in the Lower House was being discussed, both proponents and opponents of the idea set up parliamentary leagues one after another to promote their positions from those groups. At the time when the LDP factions were in the prime of their influence, these groups went beyond factional differences and became a base of political activity.


There were cases in which parliamentarian groupings played a decisive role in the selection of the LDP president. Several parliamentary leagues joined hands in fielding Hashimoto Ryutaro as a candidate for LDP presidency. The first Abe cabinet came into being with the backing of the “re-challenge” parliamentary league, which was set up to create a society that would give everyone another chance. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide took the initiative in creating this group.


What these precedents are telling us is that within the LDP, Abe is seen as a strong candidate to succeed Suga. Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro, who is rumored to have strained relations with 3A, will soon launch a parliamentary league to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific and invite Abe as supreme advisor. Nagatacho is already trying to gauge who will become the winner with an eye on the general election, which will be definitely held by autumn.


Abe, who left the government as the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the nation’s constitutional government, is the one who Nagatacho politicians predict will be the winner. Parliamentary leagues have long played an important role because they have provided a venue for lawmakers to gather beyond factional and generational differences and entrust their future to the person who shows promise as the next leader. The recent formation of parliamentary leagues within the LDP is proof that the party has few candidates for the next leader.


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