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Fumio Kishida, a heavyweight in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Monday that he aims to integrate his own LDP faction, known as Kochikai, and two other intraparty groups that have roots in Kochikai, which was created in 1957 by former Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda.

“I will work hard at the forefront to create a large Kochikai force,” Kishida, former chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, told a party of his faction held in Tokyo. One of the two factions on his mind is led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, and the other was previously headed by former LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki.

Kishida stressed his readiness to run in next year’s LDP leadership election, saying, “I will brush up my policies and gather strength so I can win the race.”

“I will consider what Kochikai should aim for after the reign of the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga,” he said, adding, “I aim to create a society in which people can feel united.”

Citing Kochikai’s history of repeated splits, Kishida said: “Kochikai alone cannot change society. We need to create a larger political force.”

Suga achieved a landslide victory in the Sept. 14 LDP presidential election, garnering 377 of the 535 votes, and became prime minister two days later. Suga’s term of office as LDP president ends in September 2021.

Some members of Kishida’s faction have voiced doubts about whether the faction leader can really run in next year’s LDP leadership poll after he gained only 89 votes in last month’s party election, although the count was larger than the 68 votes for the other contender, former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba.

Another headache for Kishida’s faction is a plan by former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, a senior member of the group and a lawmaker of the House of Councilors, to switch to the House of Representatives, apparently with the aim of running in an LDP presidential election in the future.

A middle-ranking member of the faction said, “I will back Hayashi in a party leadership election (in the future).”

Also drawing attention regarding the possible integration of the Kishida and Aso factions, and the group formerly led by Tanigaki are moves by former LDP Secretary-General Makoto Koga, who continues to wield influence over Kishida’s faction as its honorary head even after his retirement from politics.

Aso, who is in favor of the integration, is sharply at odds with Koga and has been asking Kishida to break with the former secretary-general.

According to informed sources, Kishida conveyed his intention to keep a distance from Koga when they met on Sept. 24.

Koga was absent from Monday’s Kishida faction party. Koga has told people around him that he is considering resigning from the post of honorary head of the faction.

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