Starting Gun Effectively Fired for LDP Presidential Race

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters building in Tokyo

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—With Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida having decided not to dissolve the House of Representatives during the ordinary parliamentary session through Sunday, key members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are stepping up moves toward the party’s presidential race expected to take place in September.

LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi, former party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and other possible successors to Kishida as LDP president are actively holding meetings with fellow party members.

There are also some LDP members who are seeking a young or female leader to renew the image of the party in the wake of a high-profile political funds scandal involving LDP factions.

While Kishida, whose current term as LDP president will expire in September, is eager to seek re-election, the starting gun has been effectively fired on the leadership race.

“Failure is not the opposite of success. Not trying is” the antonym, Motegi said Wednesday in a speech at a meeting of a group of lawmakers who were first elected to the House of Representatives, the lower parliamentary chamber, in the 2012 election.

“A new era will not come unless we take on challenges,” he continued, suggesting his eagerness to run in the next LDP leadership race.

Motegi had dinner with LDP Vice President Taro Aso for about three and a half hours on June 14 and with former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for more than two hours on Wednesday. He is also actively interacting with middle-ranking and young LDP members.

Ishiba, who is often picked in public opinion polls as the most favored candidate for the next prime minister, is still struggling to strengthen his support base within the party. However, calls for a new face of election campaigning may increase among LDP lawmakers on the occasion of the party leadership election as they become increasing conscious about winning the next Lower House election or the election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, set to be held in summer next year, a tendency that may work positively for Ishiba.

On Wednesday, about 20 LDP lawmakers, mainly from the group led by Ishiba and the faction formerly headed by former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, participated in a study session.

“Though the number (of participants) is limited, holding sessions regularly is significant,” Ishiba told reporters. Ishiba and Nikai jointly took part in a meeting held at the party’s headquarters on Thursday.

Within the party, there are also calls for digital minister Taro Kono or former Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, both popular choices in opinion polls to be Japan’s next prime minister, to become the next LDP president.

Among other possible successors is former Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, who has a reputation as a reliable politician.

Kato regularly dines with former LDP policy chief Koichi Hagiuda and former internal affairs minister Ryota Takeda. The trio, who served as members of the Suga cabinet together, drew the attention of other LDP members by inviting the former prime minister to their dinner on June 6.

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa has been gaining recognition recently as a potential future LDP leader. Asked about the LDP presidential race at a press conference Friday, she said, “I’d like to gratefully accept the expectations for me.”

Economic security minister Sanae Takaichi, who ran in the previous LDP leadership election in 2021, is working to secure support mainly from conservative lawmakers.

Some middle-ranking and young LDP members are endorsing former economic security minister Takayuki Kobayashi for taking the helm of the party.