• Jiji, Kyodo

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Former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, a potential successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been trying hard to strengthen his ties with members of factions other than his own.

He is drumming up support from parliamentary members of the party after only less than 20 percent of such members voted for him in the previous LDP presidential election, in September 2018.

Ishiba has also resumed trips outside Tokyo to secure support from LDP regional chapters in the next leadership race, as travel restrictions in place over the novel coronavirus have been eased. In the previous race, in which he battled Abe one-on-one, 45 percent of all ballots in his favor were from regional members.

“The Liberal Democratic Party is supported by its members,” Ishiba said in a TV program Tuesday. “It’s about how much you can resonate with party members.”

On Aug. 7 this year, Ishiba visited the grave of the late Hiromi Yoshida, former secretary-general for the LDP’s lawmakers in the House of Councillors, in Tokyo.

Yoshida, who died in October, led the Takeshita faction for members of the Upper House. The faction supported Ishiba in the previous LDP poll though he looked almost certain to lose.

“The true value of Yoshida was that he did not think about his position or post at all,” Ishiba told reporters after the visit. “That’s how the LDP should be.”

Ishiba is pinning his hopes on support from the faction in the next poll. But he was snubbed when he asked the faction to send member lawmakers to accompany him in a memorial gathering for Yoshida in Nagano Prefecture.

Shigeru Ishiba speaks on Aug. 8 in the village of Takagi, Nagano Prefecture, at a memorial gathering for Liberal Democratic Party executive Hiromi Yoshida, who died last October. | KYODO
Shigeru Ishiba speaks on Aug. 8 in the village of Takagi, Nagano Prefecture, at a memorial gathering for Liberal Democratic Party executive Hiromi Yoshida, who died last October. | KYODO

That illustrates the difficulty Ishiba faces in securing broad-based support from other LDP lawmakers. In media public opinion polls, Ishiba is often chosen as the most suitable person to become the next prime minister, but Abe’s administration regards him as a political foe.

Ishiba is also seeking assistance from Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, who has agreed to give a lecture at an event to be held by Ishiba’s faction next month.

Ishiba praises Nikai, saying that the heavyweight has “strong affection for hometowns and regions.” Nikai has said he is willing to give a lecture no matter who asks him to do so.

A senior member of Ishiba’s faction said, “A person who can be the face of national elections will win the next LDP leadership race.”

Expectations for Ishiba are expected to grow as the October 2021 expiration of the terms of House of Representatives members nears, unless the Lower House is dissolved for a snap election this year, the member also said.

In a lecture in Osaka on July 27, Ishiba stressed the importance of regional revitalization. He is making the rounds of major districts, from Sapporo to Fukuoka.

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