National / Politics

Bid to challenge Abe for LDP presidency faces ‘thorny path,’ Seiko Noda says

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Internal affairs minister Seiko Noda admitted Monday that she is concerned about her quest to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election in September because her eligibility is still in doubt.

“It’s a very tough situation for me. I’m treading a thorny path,” Noda, 57, told a Tokyo gathering organized by a Jiji Press-affiliated public corporation.

After attempting unsuccessfully to declare her candidacy in the ruling party’s previous presidential election in 2015, Noda has made no secret of her desire to throw her hat into the ring this time around. But the reality is she stands little chance of dethroning Abe or even entering the contest due to lack of intraparty support.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported Monday that Abe is projected to secure at least 290 votes — or about 70 percent — of the total of 405 held by the LDP’s Diet members. This compares with just two members who voiced support for Noda, the paper reported. An endorsement of at least 20 parliamentarians is necessary to register one’s candidacy for the race.

But even as the prospect of entering the contest keeps eluding her, Noda seemingly remains undaunted.

Her speech on Monday coincided with the unveiling of her new book titled “Mirai wo Tsukame” (“Grab the Future”), which details a list of policy pledges that she says she would implement if elected LDP president and thus prime minister.

Under the catchphrase of making Japan a country in line with “the global standards,” Noda’s book reportedly advocates enabling parents to take up to two years of child care leave, delaying or scrapping the national retirement age altogether, promoting telecommuting, and legalizing couples who keep their surnames separate after marriage.

Consistent through her speech on Monday was an emphasis on the concept of diversity.

Noda appeared to obliquely criticize junior member Mio Sugita, who recently came under fire both at home and abroad for arguing that tax money shouldn’t be used on same-sex couples because they don’t reproduce and therefore are “unproductive.”

“It saddens me that those comments left behind by the global standards surface in the world of modern politics because of the lack of basic knowledge,” Noda said.

“There is no proper education within the LDP on human rights. We need to do some serious soul-searching about this and try to embrace people we don’t like or those who think differently from us. Otherwise, politics doesn’t work.” she said.

Noda’s bid to enter the LDP election recently took a further hit when it came to light last month that she leaked the fact that an Asahi Shimbun reporter was filing an information disclosure request over a meeting she had with an official of the Financial Services Agency.

The misstep was widely taken as revealing Noda’s lack of understanding toward the principle of confidentiality underlying the information disclosure system. It was also deemed particularly problematic because Noda, as the internal affairs minister, is in a position to oversee the law on access to information held by administrative organizations.

Noda has apologized for leaking the information on Asahi’s request to other news organizations and suggested that she will self-impose disciplinary measures.