With less than four months before the terms of lawmakers in the House of Representatives expire in October, factional tensions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are becoming heated over which candidates will be endorsed.
The party needs to adjust its candidates in some 20 of the single-seat constituencies represented in the Diet’s Lower House, due to potential competition between candidates and the retirements of some veteran lawmakers.
Size matters to party factions as it directly affects their influence within the party, and bigger factions tend to win better posts in reshuffles of Cabinet members and LDP executives.
Some faction leaders have risked fomenting rivalries to put their members on the LDP ticket in such constituencies, in hope of expanding their presence.
“It would be impossible for Asako Omi to lose official backing as she works hard in her home constituency,” former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after a gathering held for her Friday in Maebashi.
Omi, a Lower House lawmaker elected from the No. 1 constituency in Gunma Prefecture, belongs to the faction led by former LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda — Abe’s home faction.
Yasutaka Nakasone, elected to the Lower House for the first time from a proportional representation bloc in the previous 2017 election, aims to run in the same constituency. He is a member of the faction led by current Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.
Abe’s remark was apparently aimed at keeping Nikai in check. A senior official of the Hosoda faction added Monday, “I wonder whether it’s a good idea to take off one of the few female candidates.”
The LDP has potentially competing candidates in around 10 of the 20 constituencies that require candidate adjustments. The Nikai faction, keen to grow its presence, hopes to put up candidates in six of the 10.
In Niigata Prefecture’s No. 2 constituency, Nikai faction member Eiichiro Washio, who joined the LDP after winning his Lower House seat as an independent, is competing against Kenichi Hosoda of the Hosoda faction for an LDP ticket.
In Shizuoka Prefecture’s No. 5 constituency, Goshi Hosono — another Nikai faction member — is at odds with a candidate expected to be fielded by the faction led by Fumio Kishida, former foreign minister and LDP policy chief.
In the No. 3 constituency of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura of the Nikai faction holds a seat, former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, a senior member of the Kishida faction, is considering filing a candidacy, switching from his current membership of the Upper House.
Nikai is urging Kawamura to secure his current seat, but a source close to Hayashi said, “We won’t give up, and it’s up to the Nikai side (to withdraw),” hinting at a possible clash between the two in the next election.
On Tuesday, Nikai told a news conference that he may consider removing Hayashi from the LDP if he runs in the Yamaguchi No. 3 constituency for a Lower House set.
“The LDP’s rules stipulate that incumbent members have priority,” Nikai said.
But he stopped short of clarifying what he would do in that Gunma constituency specifically.
In a radio program Wednesday, Kishida said the LDP’s official candidates for the next Lower House election would be decided by the party leadership team, adding that he wants to see reasonable decisions.
“Hayashi is an important person for the LDP and the country,” Kishida said, expressing his support for Hayashi’s bid for the Yamaguchi constituency seat.
In Hokkaido’s No. 7 constituency, both a Nikai faction lawmaker and a member of the faction led by LDP heavyweight Wataru Takeshita are aiming to file candidacies.
It is very difficult to coordinate official candidates in some constituencies as the arrangements will make some heavyweights lose face, pundits have said.
The number of districts without official LDP candidates has risen due to plans by veteran Lower House members such as former Lower House Speaker Bunmei Ibuki and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki to retire.
In the previous Lower House election, the LDP finished coordination for its official candidates just before the candidacy filings.
Observers say the party may see a similar situation again in the coming Lower House vote.
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