National / Politics | FOCUS

Tensions within Japan's LDP rise over backing of ex-DPJ heavyweight Goshi Hosono in Shizuoka poll

JIJI

Tensions are intensifying between two internal factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a Lower House district in Shizuoka Prefecture currently represented by a former key opposition figure.

In the Shizuoka No. 5 district, the faction led by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai is moving to support former opposition member Goshi Hosono, 47, who served as environment minister and in other senior positions during the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Hosono, currently an independent lawmaker, is believed to be seeking to join the LDP. Backing his move, the Nikai faction has recently accepted him as a “special” member.

At the same time, the faction led by former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, currently chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council, has a member working to be elected from the Shizuoka district.

The Kishida group member, 36-year-old Takeru Yoshikawa, lost to Hosono in the district in the 2012, 2014 and 2017 Lower House polls. In the 2012 election, however, he secured a proportional representation seat for the LDP.

Last week, Kishida attended a meeting of Yoshikawa’s supporters in the city of Gotemba.

“He will certainly make it through an election and return to the Diet in the near future,” Kishida told the crowd. “We’ll join forces to support him.”

Also last week, Nikai organized a welcome party for Hosono at a traditional Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. The participants included LDP Deputy Secretary-General Motoo Hayashi, who is close to Nikai.

Asked about the current situation over the Shizuoka district, Nikai told a news conference last week that the electorate “will make the right decision.” Nikai was apparently indicating his confidence in Hosono, who easily beat Yoshikawa in the last three elections.

Nikai is slated to visit the Shizuoka district soon in a bid to hand Hosono’s campaign his support. But the visit will almost certainly provoke a backlash from the Kishida faction.

A senior member of the Nikai group downplayed any possible criticism.

“How do they dare to complain after Yoshikawa was repeatedly beaten by Hosono?” the member asked.

The Nikai and Kishida factions have a long history of conflict in another Lower House district in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Although momentum for reconciliation grew after the two groups worked together for an LDP-backed candidate in January’s Yamanashi gubernatorial election, the positive mood has been dampened by the new feud in Shizuoka.

The Nikai faction has strengthened its push for Hosono since then-faction member Tsuyoshi Tabata left the LDP in February following a sex scandal. On Wednesday, Tabata offered to resign as a lawmaker.

With the resignation accepted on Friday, Yoshikawa is set to take over Tabata’s Lower House seat in line with the LDP’s list of proportional representation candidates in the 2017 election. His return to the Diet may further escalate tensions between the Nikai and Kishida factions, observers said.