The Post-Kishida Struggle, Initiated by Sanae Takaichi, Who is Prepared to “Succeed Mr. Abe
On Monday, October 3, the extraordinary session of the Diet began, scheduled to last for 69 days until December 10, with deliberations scheduled to include a second supplementary budget bill to deal with soaring prices and the weak yen, and a bill to amend the Public Election Law to introduce a “10 for 10” reduction in the lower house election. The focus in Nagata-cho, however, is on the point where “the political situation has finally started to move” due to the national funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 27.
The most prominent figure at the funeral was former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who read his eulogy with such emotion that the audience erupted in applause. At one time, Kan had expressed a desire to set up his own study group, and there had been speculation that he might form a “Kan faction” in the future by joining the Kan Group, the Nikai faction, the Moriyama faction, and others, but he had put this off in the wake of the shooting incident involving former Prime Minister Abe.
However, his eulogy at the national funeral gave a strong impression of “Abe’s successor. Aritomo Yamagata’s phrase was the same as that posted on Facebook by former Prime Minister Abe himself to the late Honorary Chairman of JR Tokai, Yoshiyuki Kasai, who died on May 25, and its impact was so strong that there is a growing desire within the LDP, especially among non-mainstream factions, for Kan to return to power.
The Kishida administration is dominated by the Kishida faction (Koike-kai), the Aso faction (Shikokai), the Tanigaki group (Yurinkai), and the Mogi faction (Heiseiken), while the Nikai faction (Shishokai), Kan group, and Ishiba group (Suigetsu-kai) have been left out in the cold. In contrast, the Seiwa-kai, led by former Prime Minister Abe, has been in a delicate position; although there was a period of tension with Prime Minister Kishida following a cabinet reshuffle in August, it has maintained a certain degree of influence due to the presence of former Prime Minister Abe and its 97 members, the largest number in the LDP.
The Seiwa-kai has lost its leader and is now in turmoil. At present, the Seiwa-kai is in the process of being reorganized into the “Shioya faction” with Tachibana Shiotani, former Minister of Education and Science, being promoted to the position of chairman. However, as the question of whether or not Chairman Shiotani’s “trinity” is “too light,” the Seiwa-kai’s family tradition of splits is being repeated, and speculation is rife that the group will eventually become a mowing ground for the other factions.
Mr. Shiotani lost the primary election (Shizuoka Ward 8) in the general election in the fall of 2021 and was returned proportionally, so his centripetal force is not strong. While the former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Hirofumi Shimomura and Political Bureau Chairman Kōichi Hagiuda have been blocked due to the former Unification Church issue, there are strong voices that Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura will not be able to unite the faction.
So all eyes are now on the two most important players in the race: Hiroshige Seko, Secretary General of the House of Councillors, and Hirokazu Matsuno, Chief Cabinet Secretary. How will these two move? Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno, in particular, has maintained a low profile by withdrawing from the Kishida administration, but in fact he is the epitome of “a skilled hawk hides its claws,” and is a key figure to watch for the future of the Seiwa-kai.
Another notable candidate is Sanae Takaichi, Minister of State for Economic Affairs and Security (factionless), who was told by Prime Minister Kishida on the day of her inauguration in the BS Prime News on September 28, “Don’t mention the word ‘China. On September 28, she abruptly revealed on BS Prime News that on the day of her inauguration, Prime Minister Kishida had nailed her by saying, “Don’t mention the word ‘China,’ and don’t say that you will submit the Economic Security Promotion Act with security clearances (eligibility screening for handling classified information) to the ordinary Diet session next year,” which caused a stir in Nagata-cho.
Minister Takaichi, who has long devoted his heart and soul to economic and security policies, may not like the half-hearted instructions from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, but he openly rebelled against the Kishida administration’s “China-friendly” stance, probably because he took the national funeral as an opportunity to show that he is the heir to former Prime Minister Abe’s throne. While some have derided Prime Minister Kishida, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada as a “pro-China, weak-kneed trio,” this statement could be called a “declaration of war,” so to speak, in the Takaichi style.
Kishida’s administration has been the target of public displeasure over the “former Unification Church issue” and the “state funeral. The Mainichi Shimbun’s September survey showed a drop to 29%, and the Cabinet’s approval rating is entering a dangerous zone, but the extraordinary Diet session is about to change a major trend in Japanese politics. One reason is the Japan Innovation Party’s decision to take a joint stance with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) on parliamentary measures in order to mend ties with the coalition ahead of next spring’s local elections, but the drastic changes in international politics and geopolitical risks surrounding Japan are also having a major impact.
Professor Jun Kitajima, former senior strategic officer at the Danish Embassy in Tokyo and an expert on international affairs at the Graduate Institute for Social Design, points out, “The Japanese government’s decision to hold a summit of the Diet on October 16 is a major step in the right direction.
It is a certainty that President Xi Jinping will remain in office at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, which opens on October 16. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed the reality of how difficult it is for other countries to directly intervene militarily against an armed invasion by a nuclear power. While keeping an eye on the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Russia and the future of the Putin administration, the possibility of a “Taiwan contingency,” in which President Xi Jinping invades Taiwan by 2027, his third term in office, has increased considerably.
On September 30, President Vladimir Putin unilaterally declared the annexation of four occupied provinces in southeastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation, a self-serving act that follows the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and is far from acceptable, but this is also the harsh reality of international politics.
In the event of a Taiwan contingency, our supply chain would be on the verge of collapse, and the cost of oil and other imports would soar, potentially knocking our national economy into the abyss. Prime Minister Kishida is trying to show that he is “sincerely, humbly, and politely” facing the severe voices of the people, but we must also firmly and decisively confront the reality of cold international politics and the fragile state of Japan’s security,” (Professor Kitajima, above).
President Putin has also threatened to use “small tactical nuclear weapons. Japan is the only country in the world that is a neighbor of Russia, China, and North Korea, which has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles. Will Kishida be able to steer Japan through the internal and external crises?
In addition to Kan, who is expected to be reappointed to the post, and Takaichi, who is aiming to become the first female prime minister, some are calling for Taro Kono, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, who has made his presence felt on the issue of relief for victims of the former Unification Church, and Toshimitsu Mogi, who as LDP secretary general maintains good relations with Kishida and Taro Aso, vice president of the LDP. A fundamental debate on the future of Japan is expected at this fall’s extraordinary Diet session.