This month, the Fumio Kishida administration purged senior members of the faction run by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from positions of influence in one fell swoop.

The faction — which is the largest in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party — is the main target of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Tokyo Public Prosecutor's Office. With every one of its major players under legal scrutiny, the question many observers are now asking is whether the Abe faction is well and truly done for.

The answer to that question is telling because it pulls back the curtain on an oft-mentioned but little understood feature of Japanese politics: the LDP’s factional system. This scandal will not be the first to threaten that system, as there have been other incidents and reform efforts that have specifically targeted factions; and yet, they endure. The faction system prevails because of two fundamental truths about LDP politics best summarized by two prominent party members themselves.