The factions of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have arranged themselves into two major groups: the Abe faction, which is the largest, and the group that descends from the “Kochikai” line – namely, the Aso faction, Kishida faction, and Tanigaki group. Both the Abe faction and the Kochikai line [total of the three groups] have around 100 members and account for about 50% of LDP Diet members. They form the LDP mainstream and support the Kishida administration. There are rumors that factions with fewer members will be reorganized.
“We have six new members,” smiled former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who leads the Abe faction, to an Abe faction member who visited Abe’s office at the Diet in late November.
The Abe faction had 89 members as of Nov. 1, 2021, the day after the Lower House election. Six new Diet members joined the faction and the membership recovered to 95, the number it had before the election The faction membership remained unchanged even though the LDP lost 15 seats in the election.
The Aso faction (53 members), chaired by LDP Vice President Aso Taro, also welcomed six new members after the election, overtaking the Motegi faction (51 members), which was the second biggest faction before the election. The Motegi faction gained five new members, but could not make up for the members who lost their seats or retired.
The Aso faction, the Kishida faction (42 members), and the Tanigaki group, originate from the “Kochikai,” which was launched by former Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato. The idea of the three factions forming a “Dai-kochikai” is attracting attention with the launch of the Kishida administration.
“I will work hard so that we can create a large Kochikai group,” declared Prime Minister Kishida Fumio in October 2020. There is no noticeable moves toward a merger at the moment. Many instead favor supporting the prime minister through informal cooperative ties.
It has been more than 20 years since the Kochikai factions were one faction. “It’s not advantageous to have the three factions merge because the faction cultures have diverged over time. It’s sufficient to have a relationship of trust,” say people close to Kishida.
The Tanigaki group, which allows members to join other factions, has nine members who do not belong to other factions. The Tanigaki group, the Aso faction, and the Kishida faction together have a total membership of 104, which exceeds the Abe faction membership figure.
Many Abe faction members supported Kishida in the runoff vote of the LDP presidential election in September 2021. Kishida faction members are cautious on mergers because they think it would not be beneficial for the Kishida administration if the Kishida faction were to become an opposition force to Abe’s faction.
While he was prime minister, Abe also showed consideration for other factions so that the Hosoda faction, of which Abe was a member, would not have more than 100 members.
The Nikai faction led by Nikai Toshihiro, who retired as LDP secretary-general in October 2021, had 37 members at one point, down from 47 before the election. The faction membership recovered to 44 with new members. The faction is less noticeable in the Kishida administration in the shadow of the two major factional forces.
A top Nikai faction member called on Ishiba faction lawmakers in mid-November to join hands: “If [your group] will no longer be a faction, why don’t we work together?” This action anticipated the Ishiba faction’s shift to a group, in which members can join other factions.
Nikai has held repeated talks with Moriyama Hiroshi, a member of the Ishihara faction (7 members), and former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. Ishihara Nobuteru, who was chair of the Ishihara faction, lost his seat in the recent election and his faction’s future is in flux. Suga has a group of Diet member associates who are unaffiliated with a faction. Some call for these groups to organize, to counter the bipolar structure of the LDP’s intraparty factions.
Eleven of the 33 new members of the Liberal Democratic Party are not yet affiliated with a faction. Fluctuations [in faction membership] can occur with the Upper House election coming up next summer. Dynamic changes between factions are linked to the stability of the Kishida administration.