“LDP Turmoil” Brought About by Former Prime Minister Abe’s Legacy | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“LDP Turmoil” Brought About by Former Prime Minister Abe’s Legacy

Although the LDP won the House of Councillors election, ...... "The last Abe child," Akiko Ikuina, shed tears, while the "great disappointment," Eriko Imai, was just barely elected and looked relieved.

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Akiko Ikuina appeared in her office wearing a white polo shirt. On the wall behind her was a poster with former Prime Minister Abe’s picture on it.

Her “first words” after the election

“I still can’t believe that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not here. I am sad, sad, sad, but I am so glad that I was elected because I thought it was my way of repaying him.”

Akiko Ikuina, 54, a former member of the Onyanko Club who ran in the Tokyo election for the upper house, at 11 p.m. on July 10 said some words upon receiving the news that she was sure to win. Even on the 7th, the day before former Prime Minister Abe was shot, Ikuina said she had received encouragement from him at an election strategy meeting. The “last of Abe’s children” had tears in her eyes as she was congratulated by the campaign team.


“Former Prime Minister Abe is said to be quite fond of Ms. Ikuina, and the entire Abe faction backed her up. On the other hand, the LDP also backed Kentaro Asahi, who is backed by Suga Yoshihide, in the Tokyo electoral district. It is believed that former Prime Minister Abe wanted to get Ms. Ikuina elected, even at the risk of a vote-meat battle and a widening factional rift,” said a desk clerk at a national newspaper’s political section.

As a result, the LDP won an overwhelming 63 seats, with Mr. Asahi and Ms. Ikuina both won double elections. Among them, there was one candidate who just barely managed to secure a seat. One such candidate was Eriko Imai, 38, a former member of SPEED. Imai appeared at her office in Ginza at around 5:00 in the morning of November 11, just as the sky was turning white. Accompanied by her partner Ken Hashimoto, her eldest son Reimu, and supporters, Imai expressed her relief upon receiving the news that she had won the proportional election.


In 2016, when she first ran for election, the election light went on immediately after the polls opened, and in 2019 she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet Office in the Abe Cabinet, an unusually fast rise through the ranks. She was initially touted as a strong contender to win the election this time as well, but when she opened her campaign, she was only just barely able to win the election. At a press conference held immediately after she was declared the winner, Imai said to herself, “I didn’t feel that I was fast enough.”

After the election, Ms. Imai responded to an interview with this magazine about the impact of the shooting incident on the election.

She said, “People who support me are people with disabilities and women with small children, so I cancelled my street speeches on the last day of the election (the 9th) because of security concerns. Instead, I made my last speech on social networking sites, and I received a tremendous amount of comments saying, ‘I hope you will do your best to make up for former Prime Minister Abe.’”

Ms. Imai’s qualifications as a candidate have been called into question by a succession of incidents, including the “alleged copying” of a policy questionnaire and her “refusal” to be interviewed for a special election campaign TV program. Imai has also been a representative of the “controversial candidates” who have been in the news for her “hand-holding affair” with Hashimoto, which was revealed in 2017, and her fractured pelvis suffered at a bullfighting festival in May of this year. However, it is also true that the voters voted for her in the Upper House election, hoping that her candidacy for the House of Councillors would at least avenge former Prime Minister Abe’s death.

“There were some who thought that The Japan Innovation Party might become the leading opposition party in the Upper House election, but just in time, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) retained its seat. This is partly because the conservative voters did not flow to the Restoration Association and stayed with the LDP, which proves that this was a “mourning election” for former Prime Minister Abe,” said political analyst Atsuo Ito.


The reality of Akie running for office

Although the LDP won an overwhelming victory in the Upper House election, unprecedented turmoil is likely to erupt within the party. The correct answer to the question of how to succeed the Abe faction, the largest faction in the LDP, and how to maintain the conservative support base that has been solidified by Abe’s long rule.

First, there is the Abe faction. The faction has suddenly lost its leader, who has no equal, and the search for a successor is certain to be difficult.


“The Kishida faction has a tacit understanding that Yoshimasa Hayashi will succeed Kishida as foreign minister, followed by Seiji Kihara as deputy chief cabinet secretary, but the Abe faction does not. In the first place, Mr. Abe has maintained his centripetal force by not creating a “post-Abe” position. He is still 67 years old and has a strong sense of being active, and he probably intended to think about it while running for office, but this has happened.”

Journalist Tetsuo Suzuki said.

“If even METI Minister Kōichi Hagiuda and former Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura are replaced by new generations, it may be difficult to resolve the situation, including factional unity. Therefore, there is a possibility that former Education Minister Tadashi Shiotani and former policy chief Hakubun Shimomura, who are the elders and deputy chairmen, may be able to hold out for a while, or that a group leadership system may be adopted. However, since the faction was united by the centripetal force of former Prime Minister Abe, no small amount of confusion is inevitable.”


Then there is the question of who will take over the former prime minister’s territory in Yamaguchi’s 4th district. Under the new Yamaguchi redistricting plan, the three wards in which Hayashi won the election will be divided into four wards for Abe. The focus will be on who will be the candidate for the supplementary election in the fourth ward, which is the first stage of the process.

“Mr. Abe has no sons. Will his nephew and secretary to the defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, or will his wife Akie run for the seat? Discussions will be held mainly with his mother, Yoko, including whether the Kishi/Abe family will field a candidate,” said Koichi Kakutani, a political journalist.

Another issue is whether the LDP can retain the conservative base that has supported former Prime Minister Abe. Sanae Takaichi, the party’s policy chief, has been the leader in promoting conservatism within the party, but she can hardly be said to have any centripetal force now that she has lost the support of Mr. Abe, who was her backer.

“It is a fact that Mr. Abe’s death has left the conservative supporters without a base of support. The other conservative party is the Restoration Party, but so far it does not have as many logical pillars as Mr. Abe. If that happens, votes may spill over to new parties that advocate conservatism, such as the Sangen party,” said Kakutani.

The theory of Abe’s politics, which was solid because he “did not leave any traces,” may cause an unprecedented split in the LDP with his untimely death.

Eriko Imai, with a look of relief on her face, appeared on crutches. Ken Hashimoto (left) was professed as her “partner,” and she expressed her gratitude.
More than 10,000 people (according to the party’s announcement) attended the Upper House speech held in Shiba Park on August 9. The speech ended with a chorus of “1, 2, Sangseito!”
The Sangseito won seats in its first national election. The party is likely to grow in strength as a receptacle for former Prime Minister Abe’s conservative supporters.
Former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi visited former Prime Minister Abe to offer her condolences. How will she fare in the future as a strong conservative?
After the redistricting of Yamaguchi’s electoral district, the trend of Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who will be competing for votes with former Prime Minister Abe’s base, will also be a focus of attention.
From the July 29 and August 5, 2022 issues of FRIDAY
  • PHOTO Takeshi Kinugawa (1st-4th), Shinji Hasuo (Sanae Takaichi), Kyodo News

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