By Nakada Ayako, Nobira Yuichi, and Akira Asako, staff writers
Many parliamentary leagues have come into existence recently within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Especially conspicuous are those led by LDP Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro and others led by Chairman of the Research Commission on the Tax System Amari Akira. The two heavyweights seem to be preparing for a possible reshuffling of the senior party positions in the fall by increasing their exposure.
“I don’t know which meeting to attend.” “It’s a test of loyalty.”
On June 15, two parliamentary leagues both scheduled meeting at exactly the same time 5:00 p.m. One was Nikai’s “parliamentary league to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and the other was Amari’s “parliamentary league to promote semiconductor strategy.” Amari’s league has former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro as top advisors, bringing together all 3As [Abe-Aso-Amari alliance] and inviting widespread speculation that the league had been launched to counter Nikai, who has long wielded influence in the party.
In response, Nikai invited Abe to be top advisor to his league after informing Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. This was presumably NIkai’s attempt to show his grip on the party.
On a TV program, Amari remarked with thinly disguised skepticism on the recent developments: “I wonder if Nikai is capable of leading his parliamentary league” on the Indo-Pacific initiative to counter China, as it is well known that Nikai is pro-China. “[The 3As are said to control the political climate but] the secretary-general is also surrounded by people who thrive on creating drama in politics.”
As for the two meetings starting at the same time on June 15, a veteran member of the Nikai faction called the secretary-general of Amari’s league, resulting in Amari’s delaying the start of the meeting by 30 minutes.
Attention is on who will be LDP Secretary-General
A number of parliamentary leagues have been launched since early June. Former Policy Research Council chair Kishida Fumio set up a group on economic disparities, with Abe, Aso, and Amari attending its inauguration assembly. On the same day, another group was formed to promote batteries and other core industries and is chaired by Amari and attended by Abe.
Meanwhile, Nikai assumed the top position at yet another parliamentary league whose mission is to support neighborhood communities. This group was launched on June 17, and Abe was invited to be advisor emeritus.
Nikai and Amari are fighting for the party leadership through parliamentary leagues because bringing together LDP members across faction lines will allow them to demonstrate their political clout. The recent competition between Nikai and Amari is particularly heated because there is growing interest among LDP members in whether Nikai, who has served as the party’s secretary-general for almost five years, will be replaced. “(Amari may be) interested in the post of the secretary-general,” speculates a former cabinet member.
In a TV broadcast aired on June 18, Amari was asked if his groups’ activities aim to remove Nikai from his current position. Amari answered: “Not at all.” Meanwhile, Nikai has said to those around him, “I never asked for the post,” outwardly presenting a wait-and-see attitude. When a reporter asked Nikai at a press briefing if he knew that some people think that the recent increase in parliamentary leagues suggests political change, Nikai said: “We should just continue fair and square without concern for what others think. There is no problem whatsoever.” (Abridged)