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Some members likely to quit Aso-led LDP faction

  • February 22, 2022
  • , Jiji Press , 1:57 a.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Feb. 22 (Jiji Press)–Some members of the Liberal Democratic Party faction led by LDP Vice President Taro Aso are likely to quit mainly over the treatment of a scandal-tainted politician.

The Aso faction has the second-largest membership in the Japanese ruling party with 53 members. It will be third largest if any member leaves.

 Among those likely to quit is Tsutomu Sato, acting head of the faction and former chairman of the LDP General Council.

Their dissatisfaction increased after Aso decided to allow Jun Matsumoto, a close aide to Aso, who resigned from the party over a scandal a year ago, to return to the faction.

Sato is trying to form a new intraparty group. He recently met with former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and some other party members marginalized under the presidency of Fumio Kishida, the prime minister.

On Thursday, some 35 members attended a general meeting of the Aso faction. But Sato and Nobuhide Minorikawa, acting chairman of the party’s parliamentary affairs committee and a close associate of Sato, were not there.

At the meeting, Aso urged participants to get united as deliberations on the fiscal 2022 draft budget entered the final stage at the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament.

Matsumoto, former chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, had been a member since the Aso faction was small.

He left the party in February last year after he was found to have visited hostess bars in Tokyo’s Ginza district at night when Tokyo was under a coronavirus state of emergency.

Matsumoto was allowed back into the LDP after the Lower House election in October last year, in which he failed to win a seat.

This month, Aso put Matsumoto back into his faction and appointed him special adviser to the party’s vice president.

Sato joined the Aso faction in 2017 along with Minorikawa and others through a merger of factions. He was at odds with Matsumoto over how to manage the Aso faction, however.

A senior LDP member said Sato and Matsumoto “are on extremely bad terms.”

Sato was not invited to a meeting of senior faction members ahead of the LDP’s presidential election in September last year.

He is actively moving to form a new group. He told Suga, with whom Sato has a good relationship, that he will quit the Aso faction when the two met earlier this month, informed sources said.

Suga works with a group of unaffiliated LDP members.

Last week, Sato also met with Hiroshi Moriyama, who leads his own faction, and Motoo Hayashi, an aide to former Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and deputy head of Nikai’s faction. Moriyama and Nikai are out of the party mainstream, too.

Suga’s abilities are currently viewed in a positive light within the party. This is because he accelerated the coronavirus vaccination rollout as prime minister and formed strong connections with Komeito, the LDP’s partner in the ruling coalition, and opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (the Japan Innovation Party).

But Suga has not made clear whether he will form a new group. When he met with Sato, Suga was noncommittal, the sources said.

Sato is struggling in his efforts to find sympathizers within the Aso faction.

An LDP lawmaker who has served as a cabinet member showed some understanding for Sato’s move, saying, “I can understand that people outside the mainstream try to join hands.”

But many LDP members take a negative view. A senior member of the faction led by Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi said the move lacks principles.

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