Internal Collapse May Occur After State Funeral as “LDP Abe Faction” Rivalry Intensifies
On September 19, the last day of the three-day weekend when Typhoon No. 14 hit western Japan, another “eye of the typhoon” was about to be born at a hotel in Tokyo.
The event was a workshop of the Abe faction (Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, 97 members), the largest faction of the LDP. This was the first such meeting held since the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and it attracted attention both inside and outside the political world. The meeting itself proceeded peacefully from start to finish, but according to one attendee, “It was like the calm before the storm. I wonder how long this faction will remain united after Abe’s death. No one has been able to provide a guideline or a sense of presence,” they said.
At the beginning of the meeting, a video of former Prime Minister Abe was shown and a 30-second silent prayer was offered. Afterwards, Tate Shioya, 72, the acting chairman of the association, spoke about the faction, which has been rocked by the issue of the former Unification Association (United Home Federation for World Peace and Unification).
“I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for your perseverance and unity amidst the sadness, pain, and discomfort you have endured while we have been targeted.”
He then lamented the loss of Abe.
“I have walked for two and a half months in disappointment. I am reminded once again of his greatness. Our main goal is to carry on Mr. Abe’s legacy and achieve results, and I ask you to unite with us to achieve this goal.”
The secretary general of the House of Councillors, Hiroshige Seko, 59, who also serves as chairman of the upper house of the Diet, continued, citing an episode in the life of Abe, who was known as a man of fine weather.
“He was said to be the ultimate man of fine weather. He was said to be the ultimate sunny man. I thought that today’s weather was affected by the loss of Chairman Abe, but he was not such a perfect sunny man. He often says, ‘I have never stopped playing golf because of the weather. That’s why I am a man of sunshine,’ he said, because he never stopped playing golf even in the midst of any kind of torrential downpour.” He said, “I have been forced to play golf twice in the pouring rain, thinking, ‘Will they stop today? I had that mischievous side.'”
This was followed by speeches by experts who share similar views on the nation, security, and fiscal policy with Mr. Abe, such as journalist Yoshiko Sakurai. At the workshop, it was repeatedly said that the faction would continue to follow Mr. Abe’s legacy and unite as a faction.
However, it seems that unity is only a formality and that a “Seiwa-kai crisis” is actually looming.
A mid-level member of the group, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Even if we can confirm that the current group leadership system will be maintained until the 27th, when the national funeral will be held, there is no prospect for what will happen after that. Even if we keep acting President Shiotani, who is mild-mannered and has no enemies, it is clear that there will be a dispute over the appointment of a new president after that.
After the workshop, Takeshi Takagi, chairman of the National Committee, suggested that it would be better to decide on a chairman. The conclusion was postponed.
Before Mr. Abe’s death, he had mentioned four candidates for the position of president: former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Hirofumi Shimomura (68), Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura (59), Policy Research Council Chairman Kōichi Hagiuda (59), and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno (60). On the other hand, Mr. Abe has not been able to single out a successor in order to preserve his own path to a third return to the prime minister’s office.
The race to add Seko to the four is now on for faction chairman. If someone else becomes chairman, someone else will not be satisfied. Nevertheless, we know that if we split badly, we will not be able to take advantage of our strength in numbers. If they were to leave a faction and form their own faction, they would have to collect money and distribute it to their henchmen. No one has the capacity to go that far.
The fact that many of the members of this faction received support from the former Unification Church and had a close relationship with it was revealed during the discussion about the next faction president, and this has been criticized.
“The most embarrassing issue is the revision of the Constitution. The LDP’s draft constitution is very close to the views of the former Unification Church on the constitution. Prime Minister Kishida seemed open to constitutional reform, but he may use the former Unification Church issue as an excuse to wait and see on constitutional reform. If the Seiwa-kai is weakened, it will not be able to put pressure on the Kishida administration. When the conservative base thinks, ‘They can’t do anything about it,’ support from the right will start to drift away. That’s when the collapse will begin in earnest,” the lawmaker said.
The day a record typhoon hit Japan may go down in political history as a “stormy day” for the Seiwa-kai, which has been enjoying “the spring of our world” in Nagata-cho for 20 years.
Interview and text by： Daisuke Iwasaki