Kishida’s Accommodation of Komeito Irks Some in LDP; Prime Minister Determined to Hold Ruling Coalition Together

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nippon Ishin leader Nobuyuki Baba, left, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, exchange a written agreement on political reform at the Diet Building on Friday morning.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has accepted the requests of Komeito and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), thereby securing a narrow path to revise the Political Funds Control Law in the current Diet session.

Kishida, who is also president of the Liberal Democratic Party, was prompted by his assessment that the ruling coalition’s administration would not survive if the LDP ignored other parties’ assertions amid the adverse public opinion bedeviling the LDP.

Yet his decision has created some resentment within the LDP. Some members view it as tantamount to “swallowing whole” the requests of other parties.

“We must not let the foundation of the LDP-Komeito coalition fall apart,” Kishida said at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday evening, indicating to those around him that he would accept Komeito’s requests.

Komeito had strongly requested that the level at which the names have to be disclosed of people who purchase tickets to political fundraising parties be lowered to over ¥50,000.

Within the LDP, however, many feel the threshold should be kept at “over ¥100,000,” as the party originally proposed. This is due to fears that younger members of the party will have a hard time raising funds if the number of purchasers drops due to people’s reluctance to having their names disclosed.

Topping the list of such dissenters are LDP Vice President Taro Aso, and Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, both key supporters of the current administration.

On Wednesday evening, Aso and Motegi met with Kishida at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. Aso pressured Kishida, saying: “You had better not think of making concessions. Otherwise, our party won’t hold.”

Aso and Motegi tried to persuade Kishida based on the need to consider the circumstances surrounding younger members, but Kishida reiterated, “I’ll get it finalized during the current Diet session no matter what.”

In contrast, LDP General Council Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama and former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who have connections with Komeito, want to prioritize cooperating with Komeito.

Moriyama had lunch with Kishida on Wednesday and advised the prime minister, “You should prioritize maintaining the coalition.” On Thursday, Suga also urged Kishida, “We’re in a coalition, so we have no choice but to get along with each other.”

On the other hand, some younger members of the LDP were beginning to accept the idea of lowering the threshold to over ¥50,000, saying that given harsh public opinion, they could no longer convince voters it was a good idea to set the threshold at over ¥100,000.

With these circumstances also in mind, Kishida decided to accept Komeito’s proposals and pushed them through even though Aso again tried to persuade him otherwise over the phone on Thursday evening.

To orchestrate a broader consensus, Kishida instructed his closest aide, the LDP’s Acting Secretary General Seiji Kihara, to negotiate with Ishin.

Kihara had the negotiations with Ishin deadlocked in mid-May. On Wednesday evening, he rang the phone of Takashi Endo, chairman of Ishin’s Diet Affairs Committee, and asked him to “give it another go.”

When Endo warned Kihara, “We don’t want to go back and forth [bargaining],” Kihara responded, “I understand.” Consequently, the LDP accepted almost all of Ishin’s key demands.

Some in the government said the prime minister’s decision is a good one, given the trend of public opinion. However, some of those close to Aso have said they’ve supported the administration so far but will have to think twice in the future.

A mid-ranking legislator of the LDP, who approves of lowering the threshold to over ¥50,000, said, “The prime minister made his decision too late, leaving the impression that the party is getting off-course.”