Abe set to helm Hosoda faction

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, bumps fists with Hiroyuki Hosoda at a fund-raising event in Tokyo in October 2020.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to become the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction, currently led by Hiroyuki Hosoda, as Hosoda is set to assume the post of speaker of the House of Representatives.

The decision will be formally made at the faction’s general meeting on Thursday.

Abe, who has remained influential since stepping down from the premiership for a second time, will have to strike a balance between nurturing the next generation and maintaining his own political influence.

Hosoda, Yasutoshi Nishimura and other faction executives reached the unanimous decision to make Abe the new leader at a meeting on Tuesday.

“Abe held the post of prime minister for nearly 10 years and he has been playing an active role in our faction,” said Hosoda, who is to leave the party and the faction when he becomes the speaker of the house.

With 87 Diet members, it is the largest faction in the LDP, representing nearly one-quarter of all LDP members in both houses of the Diet.

Abe left the Machimura faction — a predecessor of the Hosoda faction — shortly before his second Cabinet was inaugurated in 2012. However, he has continued to wield influence during party leadership elections, among other occasions.

Abe backed candidates belonging to the Hosoda faction in the recent lower house election, solidifying his foothold in the faction in anticipation of eventually taking the reins.

Yet Abe had been unsure of the timing of a return to the group because of a scandal linked to a dining event during his administration and lingering caution among some faction executives.

However, the prevailing view among the executives was for Abe to lead the faction, and Abe has reportedly given his consent. In the past, he had said, “It would be difficult to accept a request to lead the faction unless it was the consensus of the group.”

A senior faction member said, “If we become the Abe faction, it will be even easier for us to exert our power” in party affairs, including in leadership elections.

Former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was a kingmaker in the party when he led the LDP’s largest faction.

During the party’s leadership race in 2020, Abe backed Yoshihide Suga, who has no faction affiliation, helping him become prime minister.

In the latest presidential election held in September, Abe backed Sanae Takaichi, who also has no faction affiliation. His move took votes away from Taro Kono, meaning Abe’s efforts indirectly supported Kishida’s bid to become prime minister.

Abe had tipped faction members as potential prime ministerial candidates, such as Hakubun Shimomura; Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda; Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno; and Nishimura. But as the faction did not field one of its members in the September leadership race, internal grievances have been smoldering.