Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto declared his candidacy August 28 for re-election as president of the Liberal Democratic Party, expressing hopes of continuing to promote reforms while maintaining the current tripartite alliance.
He expressed his wish to run for the position at an LDP Executive Council meeting, and then met the press to make the announcement. “I told the executive board that I want to continue fulfilling the prime minister’s responsibility as LDP president, if permitted,” Hashimoto said at the press conference. Until August 27, he had deflected press questions about whether he would run, saying he was too busy to think about the matter.
His decision was made in response to LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato’s request that he run for a second term, according to Kato. No other contenders have stepped forward, and Hashimoto is expected to win a second term automatically. He would be the first to win a second term since former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1984.
Reflecting a period of LDP decline, none of the seven LDP presidents before Hashimoto served long enough to be re-elected, although some were nominally re-elected after serving the remainder of their predecessor’s tenure. Hashimoto is expected to reshuffle the party leadership and the Cabinet after his re-election, which is likely to be endorsed at a meeting of LDP Diet members on Sept. 11. He declined to comment on how he wants to conduct the reshuffle or its timing, saying he will think about the matter only after re-election.
Hashimoto said he hopes to continue to promote financial, administrative and other reforms to create an active society with a bright future. He also expressed his intention to maintain the current political alliance with the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake. He said the present framework with the two parties has existed since he became prime minister and that the LDP “has no intention of breaking the current alliance” as long as the SDP and Sakigake want the relationship to continue.
He also said it is possible that the party will seek cooperation from other parties, depending on the issue. While intraparty conflict is intensifying between forces supporting the three-party alliance and forces seeking a conservative alliance between the LDP and Shinshinto, the main opposition party, Hashimoto’s remarks indicate he is leaning toward the force that favors the current alliance. The conservative force apparently wants Kato replaced as secretary general and Taku Yamasaki replaced as policy chief under the Cabinet reshuffle.
Referring to the administrative reforms being laid down, Hashimoto said, “Although big changes in traditional systems are sometimes accompanied by considerable pain, this country could become bright, energetic and stable in the 21st century only after achieving the reforms.”
Hashimoto, 60, has been LDP president since Sept. 22, 1995.