Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering keeping Toshihiro Nikai as secretary-general of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party when he revamps the party executive lineup next week, sources said Wednesday.
Nikai, who assumed the No. 2 party post in August 2016, is largely credited with guiding the LDP to solid wins in recent national elections.
Abe, who heads the LDP, has said he will pick a team that can achieve political stability and tackle new challenges when he reshuffles his Cabinet and LDP executives on Sept. 11.
LDP lawmakers expect Abe to keep Nikai, 80, in his current job to maintain the status quo.
“The replacement of Mr. Nikai would change the dynamics within the party and become a source of instability” for the government, a senior administration official said.
During a meeting at the LDP headquarters on Tuesday, Abe and Nikai are believed to have exchanged views on the planned reshuffle. After the meeting, Nikai told reporters that he “has no particular interest” in whether he is retained or not.
Nikai has consistently supported the Abe administration and led efforts to revise LDP rules to allow Abe to serve a third successive three-year term as party leader from September 2018. Also, Nikai has expressed a positive view about another revision to the party rules to pave the way for a fourth Abe term.
Abe has praised Nikai for having “the best political skills” of LDP members.
Some within the LDP, however, are critical of Nikai’s recent moves to boost party strength by admitting independent and former opposition lawmakers into the ruling party.
Another key LDP figure, policy chief Fumio Kishida, is believed to have sought the post of secretary-general, but Abe will likely give him a different key post, according to the sources.
Kishida, 62, could continue to serve as chairman of the Policy Research Council, or take up the post of chairman of the decision-making General Council.
Kishida once served as foreign minister and is viewed as a potential successor to Abe, whose term as LDP president expires in 2021.
Prioritizing the stability of his administration, the nation’s longest-serving postwar prime minister is expected to reappoint Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who have remained in the Cabinet since Abe returned to power in December 2012.
Some within the administration expect that Abe might give a key post, such as foreign minister, to economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who has worked as the country’s top negotiator in bilateral trade talks with the United States.