Chief cabinet secretary’s low profile stirs discontent within LDP

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno holds a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office on Dec. 27.

Dissatisfaction is smoldering within the Liberal Democratic Party as some members are growing dissatisfied with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno for his strict adherence to maintaining a low profile.

While some have praised his stability as the spokesperson for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration, others are disappointed with his coordination and crisis management capabilities.

At his last press conference of 2022 on Dec. 27, Matsuno noted that a bill to remedy and prevent damage from large donations to organizations passed into law within two months.

“We were able to pass the bill with unprecedented speed during an extraordinary Diet session,” Matsuno said proudly.

Behind the scenes, Matsuno had sought the cooperation of Keiichi Ishii, the secretary general of the LDP’s ruling coalition partner Komeito.

Matsuno’s motto at his regular twice-a-day press briefings is “Don’t say anything unnecessary.” He has told people around him that he wants to “stay in the background.” True to his word, he makes few media appearances and has not made any gaffes.

Regarding the issue of tax hike associated with the government’s planned increase in defense spending, Matsuno persuaded Sanae Takaichi to go along with Kishida’s policy. Takaichi is the minister for economic security and had expressed opposition to the idea.

Nevertheless, members of the Abe faction — to which Matsuno belongs — and those close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe publicly voiced opposition to the plan to raise taxes.

When replacing four Cabinet ministers, including former Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, Kishida was criticized for slow decision-making, which caused damage to his administration and raised questions over Matsuno’s crisis-control capabilities.

Matsuno has a habit of avoiding eye-catching situations, and this trait has drawn complaints within the LDP, with a senior member saying Matsuno “should sweat to get things under control and help the prime minister in those types of times.”

As a chief cabinet secretary, Matsuno is in charge of the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea and reducing the burden of U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture.

“He’s tasked with issues that take time to produce results,” a government source said. “He should be patient for a while.”