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Rank-and-file votes determine LDP presidential race

In general, the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential elections favor a person who was chosen by local federations and rank-and-file members of the party. Since 1978, when the party started counting party members’ votes, there was only one exception: in 2012, local favorite Ishiba Shigeru lost to Abe Shinzo in a runoff that only counted Diet votes.


Unlike the Diet members whose votes depend on personal relationships and the policy of their factions, rank-and-file LDP members vote in the way that more closely reflects public opinion. As the Lower House members’ terms expire soon after the presidential election this year, they are concerned about who will be the “the face of the election” and will more likely vote in line with the public opinion.


On Aug. 25, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide visited the LDP headquarters and requested LDP Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro to closely listen to local voices. “We will listen to the LDP federations of the prefectural branches to find out the wishes [of the local members],” Nikai replied.


During a press conference on Aug. 26, Former Policy Search Council Chair Kishida Fumio stressed that he will put emphasis on rank-and-file party members’ opinions, saying, “It is the voices of local members and the people all over Japan that I will listen to in the campaign.”


In the event a prime minister resigned before his term ends, LDP rules allow the party to select the next leader by aggregating local votes, which are cast separately by each prefectural LDP federation, and votes of the LDP Diet members. The local votes could be either cast by the LDP’s prefectural leaderships or determined through local member ballots.


This year, however, the presidential election will be held with the expiration of the term of the prime minister. The current party rule recognizes a total of 766 votes in the presidential election. Of those, the Diet members hold 383 votes, one vote for each legislator, and rank-file-members hold 383, which are allocated through votes of more than a million LDP members.


In recent years, the LDP has shifted the party rules to give more weight to rank-and-file votes: the rules were changed in 2014 to assign the same number of votes to the Diet members and local members. An additional 47 local votes are allocated for a runoff election to represent each prefecture. (Abridged)

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