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The state of play for the LDP’s factions after October’s Lower House election

  • November 17, 2021
  • , The Japan Times
  • English Press



For the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Oct. 31 Lower House election turned out better than predicted.


In addition to party-backed victors, a few who won as independents joined afterwards, giving the LDP a total of 263 seats — a loss of only 15. It also has 109 members in the Upper House, giving it a total of 372 Diet members.


Of these, 70 are unaffiliated with any party factions, but the remaining members belong to one of seven groups.


The big winner appears to have been the party’s largest faction, now headed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while the one led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also strengthened its presence.


Two others, one led by former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and the other by former land and transport minister Nobuteru Ishihara, fared poorly in the election and are likely to dissolve or merge. Meanwhile, Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi will assume leadership of the faction that was led by Wataru Takeshita, who died in September.


While LDP factions may have differing views on how to best handle the economy, defense and diplomacy, those are often secondary to a faction’s main purpose: serving as a mentorship and financial support system under a leader, who also has the power to advance a faction member’s career by helping him or her receive key government posts, thus ensuring their loyalty. While factions have official names for political funds reporting, they are known colloquially by the names of their respective leaders.


Below is a breakdown of where each faction stands following the Oct. 31 vote.


Abe faction: 93 members

The LDP’s largest faction, officially known as Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, lost only two members following the general election. It had been headed by former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, who resigned as leader to become chairman of the Lower House. After Hosoda’s exit, Abe officially returned to the faction as leader after leaving it in 2012 to become prime minister.


The faction was formed in 1979 by former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, who served as its head until 1986, when former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, Shinzo Abe’s father, took over. Even today, faction members may be identified as being connected to the “Abe line” or the “Fukuda line.” LDP general council chair Tatsuo Fukuda, Takeo Fukuda’s grandson, is a member of the faction.


Other past heads include Yoshiro Mori, who ran it before he became prime minister and then again after he stepped down as the country’s leader. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi served as the faction head in 2000 and 2001, just before his tenure in the Prime Minister’s Office.


Prominent Abe faction members now serving in Kishida’s Cabinet include Abe’s brother, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, as well as Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, trade minister Koichi Hagiuda and education minister Shinsuke Suematsu.


LDP policy chief and close Abe ally Sanae Takaichi is not a faction member, but Abe backed her in September’s LDP presidential election rather than one of the Hosoda faction members.


As official leader of the LDP’s largest faction, Abe has consolidated his power base — although should Takaichi join, there could be friction between Abe and other faction members over whether to support her for the top party post again.


Aso faction: 53 members

Shikokai, under the leadership of LDP Vice President and former Prime Minister Taro Aso, managed to gain one member following the general election, even as one of its main leaders, former Secretary-General Akira Amari, lost his district seat and was forced to return to parliament through proportional representation. The group remains the party’s second largest faction, and both Aso and Amari remain close to Abe and his faction.


The faction was originally founded by former Lower House chairman Yohei Kono in 1999 after he failed to take over the Miyazawa faction, which is now led by Kishida. Aso and Yohei’s son, Taro Kono, who lost to Kishida in the September LDP presidential election, also split from the Miyazawa faction.


The faction’s most prominent member in the Kishida Cabinet is Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, who is Aso’s brother-in-law and replaced him in the post. Digital minister Karen Makishima and economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa are the other two Aso faction members who hold Cabinet posts.


Taro Kono, who was in charge of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout under former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is now serving as the LDP’s chair for public relations.


Takeshita faction: 51 members

Heisei Kenkyukai is the third-largest faction in the party and was led by former reconstruction minister Wataru Takeshita until his death in September. It was originally founded in 1987 by former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, Wataru’s older brother. Former Prime Ministers Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi also headed Heisei Kenkyukai, and Wataru Takeshita took it over in 2018. Obuchi’s daughter Yuko, who briefly served as trade minister under Abe, is a member.


Heisei Kenkyukai lost two members following the Oct. 31 election. Last week, LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi agreed to become head of the faction in the near future, which could improve its standing and help make Motegi a future LDP presidential candidate. Motegi served as economic revitalization minister and then foreign minister under Abe, a post he also held under Suga.


The faction has four members serving in the Kishida Cabinet: Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa, reconstruction minister Kosaburo Nishime, public safety commissioner Satoshi Ninoyu and Kenji Wakamiya, the minister for the 2025 Osaka Kansai Expo.


Nikai faction: 44 members

Shisuikai, led by former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, took an initial hit in the general election. It lost 10 members, including several veteran lawmakers close to Nikai who retired. A few new faces were added, however, and the faction ended up with only three fewer members than it had prior to the vote.


Shisuikai was formed in 1999 and traces its lineage back to a faction run by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.


Nikai became head of Shisuikai in 2012, right after the LDP returned to power by winning the majority in the Lower House election that returned Abe to the Prime Minister’s Office. Nikai went on to become the LDP’s longest-serving secretary-general and held the post until September, when Suga stepped down.


Two Nikai faction members are Cabinet members: Environment Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi and Takayuki Kobayashi as economic security minister, a newly created post. Despite being the fourth-largest faction, Nikai’s exit as secretary-general when Kishida became prime minister, as well as his age (he’ll be 83 in February) and the lack of a clear faction successor, could spell trouble for younger Nikai faction members seeking advancement.


Kishida faction: 42 members

Despite the fact they ended up with four fewer members after the Oct. 31 election, the Kochikai faction has the advantage of being the group led by the prime minister, along with boasting Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as a member.


The faction was formed in 1957 by Hayato Ikeda, who became prime minister in 1960. Other past leaders include former Prime Ministers Masayoshi Ohira, Zenko Suzuki (Shunichi Suzuki’s father) and Kiichi Miyazawa. Kishida, related by marriage to Miyazawa, joined the faction in 1993 after winning his first election and has led it since 2012.


In addition to Hayashi, other Kishida faction members serving in the Cabinet include internal affairs minister Yasushi Kaneko, agriculture minister Genjiro Kaneko and vaccine minister Noriko Horiuchi.


Ishiba faction: 12 members

Following Suigetsukai faction leader Shigeru Ishiba’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election for the fourth time, he stepped down as faction leader but still remains de facto leader. It’s continued existence was thrown into further doubt in September after the faction supported Kono in the LDP presidential race.


As a result, no Ishiba faction members have senior Cabinet posts. The faction is currently being led by a group of Ishiba loyalists. A decision on whether to continue, dissolve or merge with another faction is expected to come before the end of the year.


Ishihara faction: 7 members

Kinmirai Seiji Kenkyukai was formed in 1998 by former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki as a breakaway group from the faction that had once been led by Nakasone (and currently by Nikai). Faction members were early advocates of constitutional change and a strong Self-Defense Forces. During the Koizumi administration, Yamasaki served as secretary-general and led the faction until 2012, when he retired and turned leadership over to former LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara.


Ishihara announced his intention to resign as the leader after his loss in the Oct. 31 election. The faction is likely to be taken over by Hiroshi Moriyama, LDP deputy general council chair, or dissolved by the end of the year.

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