A group of 31 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers met late August 22 in Tokyo to prepare for the launch of a “study group” — an apparent sign that intraparty strife is escalating prior to an expected reshuffle of the party’s executives.

It is widely expected that the study group will try to oust party Secretary General Koichi Kato in a step toward forming a conservative union with Shinshinto, the largest opposition party. Kato, who is backed by a competing party faction, insists that the LDP keep its ties with its two non-Cabinet allies, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake.

Takami Eto, a former construction minister, said he expects wide participation in the study group, which will be formally organized Sept. 3. In addition to the 31 lawmakers — including deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano — 31 lawmakers’ secretaries attended the meeting.

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