Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is calling for unity within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ahead of the upcoming Upper House elections this summer.
He rallied party faithful and LDP election candidates in a rah-rah speech delivered to the annual party convention held at a Tokyo hotel on March 13.
“Stability in politics is essential” when it comes to dealing with major issues currently facing the country, such as the Russia-Ukraine war and tackling COVID-19, he said.
This marks the first convention the party has held since Kishida took the helm of the LDP last year.
He used his speech to iron out wrinkles that have appeared in his governing coalition since then, stressing that his party intends to strengthen its relationship with Komeito, its junior coalition partner.
“If not the LDP-Komeito coalition, who else could the public leave the administration of this country to?” Kishida said.
Those comments follow reports from recent months that the relationship had become strained over their plans for the upcoming Upper House election.
In the 2016 and 2019 Upper House elections, the two parties struck a mutual endorsement pact. Under the arrangement, the LDP endorsed Komeito’s candidates in some of the electoral districts where three or more seats were contested.
It did that in exchange for Komeito’s endorsement of LDP candidates mainly in 32 electoral districts, in which only one seat was contested.
But the LDP was slow to guarantee Komeito any mutual endorsements for the upcoming Upper House election.
That was largely due to internal party concerns about the Hyogo electoral district, sources said. In the 2019 Upper House election, the LDP had endorsed Komeito’s candidate under their cooperation pact, but then its own candidate struggled to win a seat.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, delivered a guest speech.
He revealed that when he met with Kishida on March 10, Kishida told him, “We definitely need to heal what people call the division between us.”
Yamaguchi said he responded by saying, “I totally agree.”
He emphasized in his speech that he and Kishida effectively agreed on March 10 to cooperate again in the upcoming Upper House election and declared that the two parties are once again in each other’s good graces.
The LDP adopted new policies at the convention for its agenda in 2022, which include strengthening its relationship with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, an organization that has traditionally backed its main political opponents.
Kishida also said in his speech that whatever ensues from the Ukraine crisis, he is determined to protect the lives of people in Japan.
And he vowed he would continue to press for constitutional reform. He argued that it is essential to achieve all four proposed amendments to the Constitution originally set out by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, including the addition of the existence of the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9.
“Let’s achieve our party’s fundamental policy, which is to reform the Constitution,” Kishida said.