“Suga is finished. The Kingmaker Nikai’s Plot to Control the Presidential Election | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“Suga is finished. The Kingmaker Nikai’s Plot to Control the Presidential Election

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“I can’t accept that offer.”

While the LDP presidential election is in full swing in Nagatacho, the “depths of Kan’s resignation” are now becoming clearer.

It was 16:00 on September 2, before he decided to step down. At 4:00 p.m. on September 2, before he decided to step down, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke to Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general, and Mikio Hayashi, deputy secretary general, in the secretary general’s office on the fourth floor of the LDP headquarters.

“I would like you to choose any of the four posts in the party.

Kan, who was not yet thinking of quitting the prime minister’s post at that time, was aiming to deflect the criticism that was gathering against him by removing Nikai, who had held the post of secretary general for more than five years and was facing increasing criticism from within the party for his money and control of personnel. About a week earlier, Fumio Kishida, a former policy chief who had put his name forward for the presidency, had declared that he would “rejuvenate the Liberal Democratic Party” and had made a name for himself by effectively “removing Nikai” by limiting the terms of office of party officials, except for the president, to three consecutive terms of one year each. Mr. Kan had the aim of taking over his rival’s stock and destroying the issue.

Nevertheless, he could not ignore Nikai, who was quick to set the tone for the Kan administration in the presidential election a year ago and supported it. So they proposed that Mr. Hayashi, the deputy secretary general and a close associate of Mr. Nikai, be upgraded to the post of vice president, and that Mr. Nikai remain in charge of the LDP, leaving the vault in his hands.

Even though Nikai has reached the end of his life, he still has the best sense of political affairs in the party, and Kan has a high regard for him, saying that his views on political affairs and politics are outstanding. Such a person as Nikai would have no trouble grasping the intentions of Kan’s proposal. Of course, the same is true of Hayashi, who supports Nikai at his side. Hayashi listened to the prime minister’s words as if he were chewing on them and replied, “Thank you for your proposal.

“Thank you for your suggestion. Thank you for your suggestion, but I, Mikio Hayashi, cannot accept your proposal.

This was the moment when the prime minister, who was known as the “Kan of personnel,” was caught flat-footed by his own personnel decisions. After a few moments passed without any change of expression on the faces of the three men, Kan quickly returned to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Both Nikai and Hayashi must have understood Kan’s “intentions” and felt that it would be rude to use the people who had served him so well as a tool to maintain power. If Hayashi had accepted the proposal at this point, he would have changed all the four party officials and appointed more members with high public popularity, such as Shigeru Ishiba, former secretary general, and Taro Kono, minister in charge of administrative reform, to revamp the party’s image. The plan was supposed to be to increase his popularity, dissolve the party, and seek a second term, but he stumbled from the very beginning.

Kan’s shock must have been indescribable. At an extraordinary meeting of the board of directors held on the following day, he said, “I would like to concentrate on measures to deal with Corona without participating in the presidential election. I would like to withdraw my request to appoint a new board member,” he said.

“It’s all-out diplomacy.”

The race for the presidency of Japan became more fluid after Kan, who had expressed his desire to remain in office, withdrew from the race. Kishida, who was the first to announce his candidacy, and Kono have also expressed their desire to run. Mr. Ishiba, Sanae Takaichi, the former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, and Ms. Seiko Noda, the deputy secretary general, are also in talks to run.

It seems as if there is a mad scramble for candidates, and Nagata-cho is abuzz with talk of which faction will push who – as if Kan had been forgotten. Ironically, what is attracting the most attention right now is the move of Nikai, who was supposed to be “cut”. The planned appointment was postponed, and Nikai will continue to serve as secretary general. His tenure as secretary general is now the longest on record.

What will the “last kingmaker” do?

On the night of September 3, when the prime minister’s heart was broken, senior members of the Nikai Faction gathered in the room of Ryota Takeda, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, in the Akasaka Diet Members’ Quarters.

“There’s still almost a month left until the election on September 29.

As Mr. Nikai murmured this, the executives in the room looked at each other. It seems that he is not going to make a move for a new president ahead of the other factions as he did a year ago. Even if they were going to wait and see, the debate was heated as to when and how they would move. The Nikai faction, which enjoyed the “spring of its own life” in the Kan administration in terms of cabinet positions and party posts, is now trying to decide which candidate for the presidency and when. If they misjudged which candidate for the presidency they should support and when, it could lead to the demise of the faction. It is natural for them to be serious.

As the debate continued, one senior official asked Kan, “Aren’t you angry with the prime minister for removing Nikai from the post of secretary general in order to show his strong desire to continue to serve?

“Not at all.

Mr. Nikai is said to have replied shortly. Nikai, who has never shown his true feelings even to his top officials, may be at peace now that he has cleared up his grudge, or he may have already anticipated the possibility of his resignation.

The topic of conversation moved on, leaving Mr. Nikai in a state of shock. It was decided that Mr. Hayashi would support Mr. Kono, and that Mr. Takeda would act as a negotiator and send some people to Mr. Ishiba when he had trouble gathering endorsers and asked for their help. On the other hand, it was also confirmed that the basic policy would be “all-round diplomacy” and that Mr. Takeda would send a number of people to candidates who asked for nominees.

It seems that the Nikai faction is not actively involved in the presidential election this time and has decided to “get on the winning horse when the tide seems to be turning.

Is the Nikai faction’s calmness the calm before the storm? The fate of the country’s politics is in the hands of the 82-year-old kingmaker’s “next move.

  • photo AFLO Reporting and writing by Daisuke Iwasaki

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