National / Politics

With eye on succeeding Abe, Ishiba launches own LDP faction

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight and current minister for regional revitalization Shigeru Ishiba launched his own faction within the ruling party Monday, with an eye toward succeeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the party’s next president.

A total of 19 LDP lawmakers joined Ishiba’s new faction, making it the sixth-biggest among the party’s eight factions. The members include former Vice Finance Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa, former financial services minister Yuji Yamamoto, former environment minister Ichiro Kamoshita and former health minister Norihisa Tamura.

“If someone like me could be picked to take the helm of government, then I would like to aim for that,” Ishiba, 58, said at a Tokyo news conference.

“I would like to draw-up policies by looking 50 and 100 years into the future. … We want to serve as a policy group that can gain the understanding of the citizenry,” Ishiba said.

The faction is expected to hold weekly study sessions to discuss and draw-up policies in areas such as security, energy and social welfare.

The 20 members, including Ishiba, are from a liaison group of some 40 Diet members that he launched in January 2013 to bring together individuals who did not belong to any factions. The group was disbanded on Sept. 8, when Ishiba revealed his plan to form a new faction.

Ishiba, a veteran LDP member known for his in-depth knowledge of military affairs and agricultural policy, was Abe’s rival in the 2012 LDP presidential election. In that election, he won a majority of votes in the first round thanks to the support of LDP rank-and-file members, but lost to Abe in the runoff vote by LDP Diet members only.

The newly established faction was christened “Suigetsu-kai,” which signifies the moon reflecting on the surface of water. The word was taken from a Zen phrase that describes a higher state of selflessness, Ishiba said.

Abe was re-elected to a second consecutive three-year term as LDP president earlier this month. Party rules prohibit him from running for a third term.