Whispers of Prime Minister Kishida’s Punishment of Abe Faction Executives Seen as Formal and Meaningless | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Whispers of Prime Minister Kishida’s Punishment of Abe Faction Executives Seen as Formal and Meaningless

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

A political ethics committee was held in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors regarding the slush fund issue of the Liberal Democratic Party factions. However, Abe faction executives who defended themselves repeatedly stated, “I didn’t know” and “I followed the custom,” failing to clarify the truth, and criticism continued. Even in opinion polls by various companies, support for the Kishida administration remained in the 20% range.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (66), frustrated by this, conducted his own hearing on March 26 regarding Abe faction executives involved in the slush fund issue, stating at the Prime Minister’s Office,

“As the party’s executive, we are conducting a hearing. At this stage, I cannot comment on the content.”

Prime Minister Kishida, who finally took action, is said to have a cunning intention behind it. A national newspaper political department reporter pointed out, “Isn’t the intention to dispose of Abe faction executives to recover support rates, especially in conjunction with the April visit to the United States?” and continued:

“It is expected that the four Abe faction executives who did nothing despite being in a position to stop the kickbacks for party tickets will receive more severe penalties than ‘unofficially recognized’ in elections. It is expected that mid-level and younger lawmakers with few unreported amounts will receive lighter penalties such as suspension from office or warning. A visit to the United States is scheduled in mid-April, including a meeting with President Biden and a speech in Congress. Prime Minister Kishida aims to demonstrate his presence again there.”

Before the visit to the United States, it is expected that the punishment of the Abe faction executives will be announced on April 1. The expected penalties for unofficial recognition in elections are believed to be for the chairman, Tatsuhiro Shiotani, former Minister of Education (74); former Secretary-General Hirofumi Shimomura (69); former Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura (61); and Kosei Yagi, former Secretary-General of the House of Councillors (61).

The Liberal Democratic Party has party discipline regulations, and members who commit acts that tarnish the party’s discipline and dignity are referred to the party disciplinary committee and receive penalties. There are eight types of penalties:

  1. Expulsion
  2. Recommendation to leave the party
  3. Suspension of party membership
  4. Unofficial recognition in elections
  5. Recommendation to resign from parliamentary and government positions
  6. Suspension of party positions
  7. Warning
  8. Recommendation to comply with party rules


The four individuals are expected to receive unofficial recognition in elections penalties, and the remaining three executives, Hirokazu Matsuno, former Chief Cabinet Secretary (61); Koichi Hagiuda, former Chairman of the Policy Research Council (60); and Takeshi Takagi, former Chairman of the National Diet Committee (68), did not attend meetings such as the executive meeting where then-President Shinzo Abe instructed to stop the kickbacks, so suspension of party positions is under consideration as it requires consideration.

A meeting of the Seiwa-kai (Abe faction)

If Shiotani and the other four receive unofficial recognition penalties, they will have to run as independent candidates in the next election. They won’t be able to use the party’s name or receive endorsement fees. Since they cannot run concurrently in both single-seat districts and proportional representation, if they lose in the electoral district, they won’t have the chance for a comeback, and they will simply be defeated.

It appears to be a harsh punishment from the party, offering no support for what is the most crucial election for politicians. However, the mid-level lawmakers of the Abe faction argue that the reality is different, and it’s just a superficial settlement before the April by-elections, explaining further:

“We won’t see a bloody battle with another endorsed candidate from the Liberal Democratic Party in the same electoral district, like what happened with Prime Minister Koizumi’s postal privatization dissolution. The LDP’s candidate will be absent, and if they manage to defeat the opposition candidate in the electoral district, they will be additionally endorsed.

The remaining three executives, including Hagiuda, have already resigned from party positions, so if it’s just a suspension of party positions, it will be a formal penalty. Prime Minister Kishida likely wants to enact a political performance by conducting the hearing himself and implementing strict penalties.”

In reality, there is an extremely high chance that these executives will succeed in the election. A veteran lawmaker from the Abe faction explains:

“The reason the LDP remains the ruling party is that it endorses strong candidates for elections. Nishimura is considered the ‘election demon’ of the Seiwa-kai, constantly handing out copies of maps to his secretaries and sending them to visit households, meticulously securing the electoral district, even requiring detailed reports on whether every member of the family supports the party whose poster is on the gate. Even without the LDP’s endorsement, independent candidates without the party’s name will have no problem winning. Shiotani, the chairman, is considered risky due to his old age and weakness in elections, but the other executives will likely make a comeback.”

Even if scandalous behavior is exposed, LDP lawmakers consider themselves purified if they survive the election, and they continue to hold their positions. This seemingly severe punishment is, in reality, a gesture of favor. Will we see a similar scene after the next election?

  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki PHOTO Takeshi Kinugawa (1st photo)

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