Toshihiro Nikai Former Secretary-General Strategizes Hereditary Succession Behind the Scenes | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Toshihiro Nikai Former Secretary-General Strategizes Hereditary Succession Behind the Scenes

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Mr. Nikai enters the plenary session with SP on his shoulder.

“Father’s doing just fine. Our village is united, after all.”

This is reportedly how Ryota Takeda, 56, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, responded to concerns about Toshihiro Nikai, 85, former Secretary-General of the DPJ, who has announced his intention not to run for the next lower house election.

“Oyatsu-san” refers to Mr. Nikai, while “Uchi no Mura” refers to the Nikai faction. Despite Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s faction dissolution declaration, the Nikai faction remains united behind the scenes, and Mr. Nikai is said to be in good spirits.

In the investigation regarding political funds parties of the LDP factions, Mr. Nikai’s political organization had the highest amount of unreported funds in the financial reports, totaling 35.26 million yen, among active politicians. The former accounting officer and secretary of the faction have been indicted.

“I deeply apologize for causing political distrust. Naturally, as the supervisory official, the political responsibility lies with me.”

On March 25th, Mr. Nikai apologized at the party headquarters and expressed his intention not to run in the next House of Representatives election to take political responsibility.

“Mr. Nikai, who served as secretary-general for a record-breaking 5 years and 2 months, is one of the most influential figures in the party. Prime Minister Kishida and his circle were troubled about how to handle this issue. By leaking information suggesting ‘a serious punishment is looming’ and indirectly urging Mr. Nikai to make a decision before any official action, they managed to coax him into announcing his decision not to run. Since he took political responsibility himself, the party is not inclined to punish Mr. Nikai. It must be a mixed feeling for Mr. Nikai, who was forced to dissolve his faction and withdraw from running.”

With the redistricting changes for the next House of Representatives election, reducing the number of electoral districts in Wakayama from 3 to 2, Mr. Nikai, who was slated to be the head of the new District 2 branch, will necessitate the Wakayama Prefectural LDP to proceed with the selection of a new branch chief.

Regarding the new District 2, there have been numerous rumors in the past about former Upper House Secretary-General Hiroyuki Seko’s potential “House of Representatives seat switch.

Takeda has been suspended from his party post for one year.

However, in the midst of this series of scandals, Mr. Seko received a recommendation for expulsion from the party. It’s the second most severe punishment within the LDP’s disciplinary regulations, which are divided into eight levels. In the next election, he will run as an independent candidate and will not be able to run concurrently in the proportional representation block. Therefore, if he loses in the electoral district, there will be no chance for a comeback, and he will simply lose the election.

If he chooses not to switch to the House of Representatives and instead runs in the Wakayama Prefecture’s Upper House election, political scientist Yukiko Amakawa analyzes that although he may face a tough battle, Mr. Seko is likely to win.

“The possibility of Mr. Seko transferring to the House of Representatives has vanished. Even if he tries to regain his former influence within the Upper House, it will take considerable time. Mr. Nikai’s decision not to run, despite the personal sacrifice, has provided an opportunity to push forward with his son’s hereditary candidacy.”

Regarding the new District 2, various speculations are intertwining, including Mr. Seko’s possible transfer candidacy, the hereditary succession to his eldest son Shunki, who serves as Mr. Nikai’s public secretary, or to his third son Nobuyasu. Currently, in Wakayama District 1, Yumi Hayashi of the Japan Innovation Party (42) is the incumbent. The LDP aims to recapture this district by appointing former Upper House member Yosuke Tsuruho (57) as the branch chief of District 1.

The fate of Mr. Nikai’s hereditary succession is attracting a great deal of attention.

“Mr. Nikai’s eldest son suffered a crushing defeat in the 2016 Gojo mayoral election, which led to a decline in his influence. It seems that his third son is privately expressing a desire to withdraw from this election. Since Mr. Tsuruho has been appointed as the branch chief of District 1, he cannot be transferred to District 2. So, who will be nominated for the new District 2? One possibility is to field a local councilor with close ties as a ‘spot relief’ candidate. During their term, discussions with supporters will narrow down the successor. Then, in the next but one House of Representatives election, one of the sons will inherit — that’s the scenario. Handing over indirectly may alleviate criticism of hereditary succession better than a direct transfer.” (Former Mr. Amakawa)


Mr. Nikai is a self-made politician who transitioned from a Wakayama prefectural assembly member to national politics. In 1993, he left the Liberal Democratic Party and played a role as a close aide to Ichiro Ozawa, which contributed to the LDP’s downfall. He has a wide network of contacts in the opposition and the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy, navigating politics with savvy.


“Although he has announced he won’t run, he still has time left in his term until the next election. He’s not a politician who quietly retires, so if the Kishida administration gains momentum, he still has enough power to wield behind the scenes.” (Former Mr. Suzuki)


Mr. Nikai was praised by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the most politically skilled. As the autumn party leadership election approaches, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s hiding his final move that could shake Nagatacho.



  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki PHOTO Takeshi Kinugawa, Kyodo News

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