The Liberal Democratic Party may be claiming it has cast off its obsolete ways, but it is nevertheless showing some signs of the old faction-based LDP since returning to power.
“Habatsu” faction-oriented politics lost some strength in the early 2000s when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged to disband the factions and banned freshman lawmakers from joining these old-boy groups.
However, the factions are once again busy recruiting Diet newcomers, which account for almost 40 percent of the 294 LDP members in the Lower House.
Currently, more than 250 LDP Diet members belong to a faction, while about 120 members remain unaffiliated.
In the latest move, over 35 LDP legislators attended an inaugural meeting of a new group.
Although they stress this group is not a faction, and that its purpose is to share information on policies and Diet business, outsiders regard the group as the de facto faction of LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, a noted critic of factions.
“This is a group for people who do not have a place or people to have lunch with and exchange information, as that’s hard to come by when one doesn’t belong to a faction,” Ichiro Kamoshita, one of the founding members, said after the meeting.
Factions usually hold lunch meetings Thursdays, the same day the new group will have its “working lunches.”
Almost 80 percent of the participants are Diet rookies, according to a lawmaker who attended the meeting.
He said the group is especially useful for those who do not wish to belong to a faction but need insight into the Diet in and outs.
“We will not have an office. We will even invite (other) faction members to share information,” said Diet member Yuji Yamamoto.
Factions rarely invite nonmembers to such functions.
“We want to use this group to disband factions,” Yamamoto claimed.