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Tide turns for LDP factions in reshuffle

by

Staff Writer

Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle has caused a commotion among intraparty factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with the faction led by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida hit hardest.

Kishida’s faction, the third-largest with 45 members, now has only one post, Kishida’s own, in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet — down from five ministers in the previous Cabinet.

Some media outlets have speculated that the move constitutes a retaliation by Abe for Kishida’s call to protect the war-renouncing Constitution.

Just two days before the reshuffle, Kishida’s faction, called Kochi Kai, held a policy study meeting in Yamanashi Prefecture, where Kishida reportedly declared that his group will not advocate any revision of Article 9.

Abe is known as an ardent advocate of revision of the postwar pacifist Constitution, including Article 9.

“Media outlets have already written various things about the Kishida faction, such as ‘the cold shoulder was given’ and ‘a dramatic decrease’ (in the number of Cabinet ministers),” Kishida told faction members Thursday during a weekly lunch meeting that was open to the media.

“But it’s essential for us to keep our eyes on what policies this administration will advocate,” he added.

Kishida also called on members to remain united, saying the faction will try to help them win other important positions, such as vice minister, Diet committee chairperson and heads of LDP policy committees.

Kishida’s faction has traditionally advocated relatively dovish security policies. By advocating protection of Article 9, it apparently tried to distance itself from Abe’s aggressive goal of expanding the roles of the Self-Defense Forces.

But the political outcome for Kochi Kai looks miserable when compared with the largest faction, led by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, from which Abe originated.

On Sept. 24, Hosoda met with Abe and asked him to increase the number of Cabinet ministers from his faction.

Through the Cabinet reshuffle, Hosoda’s faction won four ministerial posts, up from two in the previous incarnation.

At noon every Thursday in Tokyo, each of the LDP’s eight factions simultaneously holds a weekly lunch meeting at separate locations in a ceremony of sorts to confirm member loyalty.

During this week’s closed meeting of Hosoda’s faction, reporters waiting nearby heard several instances of applause. Hosoda said members were celebrating their four colleagues who won Cabinet posts, and others who were appointed to executive positions in the party.

“In the past, we felt the number (of Cabinet ministers for the faction) was too small,” Hosoda told reporters after the meeting, echoing his past comments. “But I think that situation is gone now.”