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Head of ruling-LDP party faction to resign: sources

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

Fukushiro Nukaga, the head of the third largest intraparty faction of the ruling Liberal Democrat Party, told a top faction member from the Upper House that he will resign next month in line with demands by many bloc members, faction sources said Thursday.

Nukaga met Hiromi Yoshida, the secretary-general of the faction’s Upper House caucus, on Thursday morning and reportedly expressed his intention.

Yoshida and the other 20 Upper House members of the faction had jointly called for Nukaga’s resignation, threatening to leave the group if he refused.

Later on Thursday, Yoshida told reporters that the 21 members will not bolt from Heisei Kenkyu Kai (roughly translated as Heisei Era Study Group).

“There won’t be breakup” of the faction, Yoshida said.

LDP general council chairman Wataru Takeshita, the 71-year-old half brother of the faction’s late founder, Noboru Takeshita, is now expected to take over as the bloc’s head.

Nukaga, who took over the post in 2009, has been relatively loyal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe is expected to seek a third term as LDP leader in the planned presidential election in September.

The head of an intraparty LDP faction is usually seen as a prospective candidate for party president and thus for prime minister. But Nukaga has never challenged the largest faction, which is effectively led by Abe, and the faction’s clout has declined considerably in recent years. This has contributed to frustration among faction members, the sources said.

Nukaga’s pending resignation means Heisei Kenkyu Kai can now explore various options in power struggles ahead of the September presidential contest, possibly supporting an anti-Abe candidate, political observers say.

The 21 Upper House members didn’t attend a regular general meeting of the faction Thursday in Tokyo’s Nagatacho district, instead holding a separate meeting elsewhere in the capital.

In the Lower House, the faction has 33 members, including Nukaga himself.

Nukaga told Lower House members who attended the regular meeting that he and Yoshida have agreed to cooperate to organize a faction fundraising party in March, as previously scheduled. They also agreed that Nukaga will stay as the faction chairman until the party.

“We have come to share common understanding that we should keep talking sincerely” about how the faction should be managed, Nukaga said in a brief speech at the beginning of the meeting.

According to a key Upper House member of the faction, former faction heavyweight Mikio Aoki — who served as a secretary to Noboru Takeshita — wants to “return” control of the faction to the Takeshita family.

In 2010 Aoki decided not to run for the Upper House election and officially retired from politics but he is believed to still exert influence over Upper House members of Nukaga’s faction, in particular Yoshida.