Abe’s suggestive speech eggs biggest fan on

by Hiroko Nakata

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe’s suggestive declaration Wednesday that he would run for president of the Liberal Democratic Party has thrilled one of his most ardent supporters.

Ichita Yamamoto, a 48-year-old member of the Upper House, is one of Abe’s biggest fans. He can often be seen on TV programs praising the hawkish lawmaker. Yamamoto said he was relieved by the speech.

“It made it easier for me to support him,” he said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi still has a while to go before he steps down in September, and his potential replacements have been waiting for each other to officially declare. Wednesday’s speech was the first time Abe has even hinted he would run.

Yamamoto has been showing his support for Abe for the last several months on his Web site. He believes Abe is the only one who can carry on with Koizumi’s structural reforms.

He even penned a rock ‘n’ roll tune for Abe titled “A Song Dedicated to a Challenger” to cheer the lawmaker on.

Yamamoto released the tune to the media last month by belting it out on stage with his own band. In translation, the lyrics go something like:

“You should take it. Don’t miss the chance.”

“You should take it. We are on your side!”

The showy performance got on the nerves of former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who leads the LDP faction that the two key contenders — Abe and his senior, Yasuo Fukuda — belong to.

Mori has tried to downplay conflicting support for the two lawmakers to prevent the rivalry from splitting his faction, which is the largest in the LDP. Yamamoto is also in the faction.

It is widely believed Mori prefers Fukuda and wants Abe to back off from running.

Earlier this month, before the musical performance, Mori warned Yamamoto about his rabid support for Abe, using soccer terminology.

In the middle of a faction meeting, Mori scolded Yamamoto for vocally supporting Abe and told him he deserved a “yellow card” for his behavior.

Now he deserves a “red card,” Mori said.

But Yamamoto doesn’t mind. He said Abe’s speech marked the start of the second phase of his support campaign.

Yamamoto now plans to make CDs or MDs of the song so he can distribute them to any interested party.

When asked about Yamamoto earlier this month, Abe tried to distance himself from his enthusiastic ally.

“I do not tell Mr. Yamamoto what he should do,” Abe said. “He engages in activities as an independent politician. I don’t think he will stop even if I ask him to.”