Turmoil Ahead for 2 LDP Factions Continuing Activities

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Two factions in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party face a rocky road ahead after they decided to continue their activities as policy-based groups without dissolving themselves.

The factions, led by LDP Vice President Taro Aso and Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi, respectively, have confirmed their intentions not to disband while four other intraparty factions have decided their liquidations in response to a high-profile political funds scandal related to kickbacks paid from revenues collected through fundraising parties hosted by LDP factions.

But the Aso and Motegi factions continue to face calls from their own members to disband, and multiple lawmakers have announced their departures from the group led by Motegi.

Motegi signaled in a television program Thursday night that his faction will allow its members to join a second faction, saying that his faction “must reconsider its closed nature.”

It has been a long-standing practice for all LDP factions to hold regular meetings around noon every Thursday, prohibiting party lawmakers from joining multiple factions. This had been the biggest difference between factions and looser groups.

Although the move may shake the unity among Motegi faction members, an official at the faction said that the head of the group has been “pressured so much that he has to shift to a flexible policy.”

Motegi has been losing his grip on faction members. On Jan. 25, LDP Election Strategy Committee chair Yuko Obuchi expressed her intention to leave the faction, and Kazuhiko Aoki, a lawmaker in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, soon followed suit.

The fathers of Obuchi and Aoki, the late former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and the late former Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki, respectively, were deeply involved in the formation of the faction. The departures of their children, viewed as the mainstream members of the faction, therefore led to fears that the faction may splinter.

The Motegi faction on Tuesday confirmed that it would cease to exist as a faction and transform itself into a policy-based group.

Nevertheless, six members, including Hajime Funada, who serves as chairman of the general assembly of LDP members in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, former Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa and Masakazu Sekiguchi, who leads LDP lawmakers in the Upper House, submitted their resignations from the faction the following day.

The move brought down the number of member lawmakers from 53 before the scandal to 45.

Motegi, whose faction once boasted its “iron unity,” has shown a willingness to abolish the faction’s office and disband its political organization.

But a member who has served in a cabinet said that the faction should be dissolved.

When asked by reporters Friday whether he will remain in the faction, Upper House lawmaker Nobuaki Sato said that he will wait and see.

Meanwhile, former Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is the only lawmaker to have left the Aso faction.

Aso maintains his influence over the faction partly due to the fact that he was a founding member of its predecessor, which included former LDP President Yohei Kono.

Members of the faction agreed last Thursday that they will continue to meet every Thursday at the faction’s office for the time being.

But with the LDP’s four other factions having decided to disband and with the Motegi faction looking to transform itself, there are increasing criticisms within the party that the Aso faction is “the last of the party’s old guard.”

“Young lawmakers could lose their confidence if they are criticized about their faction membership in their constituencies,” a former cabinet member who does not belong to any faction said. “The fate of the Aso faction is up in the air.”