Calculation of Prime Minister Kishida’s Faction Dissolution Behind Abe Faction’s Dispersal | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Calculation of Prime Minister Kishida’s Faction Dissolution Behind Abe Faction’s Dispersal

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Prime Minister Kishida suddenly announced that his faction would be dissolved. Behind this announcement, there was a unexpected calculation.

“I am considering dissolving the Hiroike-kai (Kishida faction).”

On January 18th, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s sudden announcement of dissolving his faction caused a stir. The following day, like an avalanche, Nikai faction (38 members) and Abe faction (96 members) also declared faction dissolution, making it a policy for three out of the six factions within the LDP to dissolve in just two days.

“Prior to the announcement, the Prime Minister gathered faction executives through the back door of the Prime Minister’s Office, accompanied by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi (63) and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hideki Murai (43). He conveyed that he wanted to dissolve the Hiroike-kai to take an offensive stance. It seems like he also mentioned, ‘I don’t know what will happen next.’ The political situation is likely to become more fluid.” Political department reporter from a national newspaper.

Aso, who has indicated that his faction would continue to exist, was furious. The Kishida faction (46 members), the fourth faction in the party, has been running the government with the support of the Aso faction (56 members), the second faction, and the Mogi faction (53 members), the third faction.

“On the 21st, they had a two-hour dinner at the Hotel Okura’s Japanese restaurant ‘Yamazato,’ where Prime Minister Kishida apologized in advance, saying, ‘I’m sorry for not giving you prior notice.’ Aso accepted the apology, creating a semblance of reconciliation. However, Aso emphasized, ‘The Kishida administration has been supported by the faction’s strength so far,’ advocating the usefulness of the faction. He also conveyed his intention to maintain his own faction, creating an uncertain situation in the administration.”

What is behind the declaration of the dissolution of Kishida’s faction without waiting for the interim report of the LDP’s Political Revitalization Headquarters, which is scheduled for the 26th?

“It was a bold move in the midst of low approval ratings.”

Middle-ranking members of the Kishida faction expressed their excitement without hiding it and continued as follows.

“Right before the press conference, I learned about the dissolution announcement through a phone call from a senior member. First, I was surprised at that moment, and further shocked because he hadn’t done any groundwork with other factions. However, President Kishida has taken a bold move. As part of a strategy to boost his approval ratings, he is conducting behind-the-scenes negotiations on the abduction issue with North Korea.

Negotiations seem to be progressing, such as receiving a message from Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader (40), expressing sympathy for the Noto Peninsula earthquake. However, in diplomacy, there are considerations from the other party, so it’s challenging to take proactive actions. However, dissolving the faction is a decision the president can make. By proposing dissolution ahead of other factions, he can take the initiative. Taking the lead in addressing political distrust, he might be able to gain public support by showing that he has acted proactively.”

After the dissolution declaration, the atmosphere in Nagatacho changed drastically. On the 19th, during a press conference after the extraordinary general meeting of the Abe faction, chaired by Tate Shiotani (73), he was asked if there was an impact on the dissolution of the Abe faction due to the dissolution of the Kishida faction. He responded, “I think there was some influence. I believe it accelerated things.”

“It could be said that the five members (former House of Councillors Secretary-General Hiroshige Seko, former policy chief Koichi Hagiuda, former Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, former Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura, and former National Diet Committee Chairman Takeshi Takagi) dragged their feet by not giving in to each other.”

Abe faction members of the House of Councillors pointed out that, and continued as follows

“Withdrawing the notification as a political organization means that it is no longer a political organization. Since it is not a political organization, it cannot hold political fundraising parties, and it cannot collect money as a faction.

Although the affiliated members may observe the situation for a while, it is evident that they cannot handle money or positions, and the situation is likely to resemble a comb with missing teeth. A small group centered around the five people will emerge and likely lead to a split.”

The LDP’s largest faction, which boasts 96 members, may be winding down. The LDP’s largest faction, which boasts 96 members, may be winding down again, as the Kishida faction member noted.

“Even if the faction is dissolved, people naturally come together. The Kishida faction has strong cohesion, so even if it becomes a policy group, it will not fall apart. The chairman had the confidence that even if the dissolution was proposed, the group would not disintegrate. That’s why the dissolution declaration was made first.

The Nikai faction can also maintain unity as long as Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai (84) is healthy. Secretary-General Nikai has a unique sense of political trends and went along with the dissolution declaration. A few years later, when the faction revives, the only one scattered may be the Abe faction.”

In 1989, the LDP, which had been discredited by the 1988 recruiting scandal in which the then factional leaders were given undisclosed shares in the LDP and others, and which had caused distrust in politics due to politics and money, issued a political reform outline that clearly stated its determination to eliminate the harmful effects of factions and to dissolve them. However, it was only a statement, and it was never implemented.

In addition, when the LDP fell to the opposition in 1993, it announced factional reforms, and in 1994 the party’s Reform Headquarters closed all factional offices, saying that it would no longer use the name faction.

In this way, the theory that factions are unnecessary has been repeatedly raised since the 1980s, but in the end, they continued to exist while changing their form, saying that they are necessary as a nurturing organization or as a policy group.

The aforementioned member of the Abe faction’s House of Councilors stated, 

“While the glory of the Seiwa-kai has faded, factions are the source of power in the Liberal Democratic Party, so at some point, a faction will inevitably be revived.”

Prime Minister Kishida’s declaration of faction dissolution was the result of his confidence in the solidarity of his faction. Although the Abe faction was crushed, the administration remains uncertain due to opposition from other factions.

Seiwa-kai (Abe faction) meeting
  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki Photo by Takeshi Kinugawa

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