The Liberal Democratic Party executive appointments reflect the composition of the closely contested LDP leadership election. The question now is whether election winner Fumio Kishida will be able to stabilize the government and realize his ideals.
The new LDP executives have been inaugurated. Kishida picked veteran lawmaker Akira Amari as secretary general, while Sanae Takaichi, one of Kishida’s rivals in the presidential election, was appointed chairperson of the Policy Research Council. Tatsuo Fukuda, who has been elected to the House of Representatives only three times, was made chairperson of the LDP’s General Council, a key appointment apparently aimed at demonstrating Kishida’s commitment to promoting party reform.
Taro Aso, who is currently deputy prime minister and finance minister, was tapped as LDP vice president, while Toshihiro Nikai, who served as the party’s secretary general for five years, was replaced by Amari. It is believed that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aso, both of whom are close to Amari and Takaichi, will exercise stronger influence over party management.
Kishida is expected to be appointed prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Monday, before launching his cabinet. It is hoped that the new cabinet and the ruling bloc will work together to establish a powerful framework to carry out necessary policies.
The party executive appointments were in large part rewards for lawmakers who helped Kishida win the presidential election.
Amari supported Kishida even though he belongs to the Aso faction, of which Taro Kono, who also ran in the presidential election, is also a member.
Amari once served as minister in charge of economic revitalization in the Abe Cabinet and promoted the Abenomics economic policy package. He has close relations with both Abe and Aso. Abe holds strong influence over the faction led by Hiroyuki Hosoda, the LDP’s largest, and Aso leads his own faction, which is the party’s second-largest.
Kishida, who heads the LDP’s fifth-largest faction, is believed to have made solidifying his political foundation his first priority.
During the presidential election campaign, Kishida called for a shift away from neoliberalism, which has been promoted since the implementation of reforms under the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
How Kishida and the LDP’s new leadership will realize this policy shift amid the influence of Abe and other party heavyweights will be a test of their abilities.
Another focal point will be the relationship between the LDP and Kishida’s cabinet.
As a result of the increased concentration of authority in the Prime Minister’s Office in recent years, top government officials have been making policy decisions based on the opinions of close aides, causing growing frustration among others in the ruling bloc.
An important function of the ruling bloc is to compile a wide range of public opinions and to reflect the information in government policies. The LDP and the cabinet must sufficiently coordinate their policies to meet the expectations of the people, while also ensuring high levels of transparency.
The lower house election is expected to be held in November. Takaichi, in her second stint as chair of the party’s Policy Research Council, bears the heavy responsibility of swiftly compiling the LDP’s campaign pledges.
LDP lawmakers have been embroiled in a series of scandals involving money and politics during the party’s long time in power, but it has failed to adequately deal with the problems.
Amari resigned as a Cabinet minister in 2016 over a scandal involving his secretaries, who were suspected of receiving cash. As the party moves ahead with reforms, public trust in politics will not be restored unless each and every LDP lawmaker straightens up.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 2, 2021.