TOKYO: KONO Taro, one of contenders in the Sept. 29 leadership election for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, may join hands with former LDP Secretary-General ISHIBA Shigeru to aim at a landslide victory in the race.
On Monday, Kono, 58-year-old regulatory reform minister, asked Ishiba, 64, for support in the leadership election to win votes from rank-and-file party members.
Both Kono and Ishiba are popular among the public. They are ranked high in opinion polls on who should be the next prime minister.
Kono apparently thinks that support from Ishiba will help him gain rank-and-file votes enough to avoid a runoff in which lawmakers’ votes are crucial.
At the same time, Kono’s request for help lent support to Ishiba, who was believed to be finding difficulty in gaining the support of 20 party lawmakers needed to run in the leadership election.
If appointed to a key post in a Kono administration, Ishiba would be able to remain as one of candidates for a future LDP leader.
Still, for Kono, collaboration with Ishiba could become a double-edged sword. The move could sour Kono’s relations with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
Ishiba was at the forefront of criticizing Abe and Aso during their terms as prime minister. He still seeks to change the LDP’s policies. “Kono, if elected, will not uphold the LDP’s way of politics,” Ishiba said.
Abe has influence on the largest LDP faction led by former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, and Aso leads the second-largest faction where Kono belongs.
A senior Aso faction member said, “Kono’s ties with Abe and Aso will worsen.” Such a situation is unfavorable to Kono even if he takes over as prime minister.
Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, 64, another candidate in the party leadership race, is closely watching the course of the possible Kono-Ishiba alliance.
Kishida has widely been seen ahead of Kono in terms of support from LDP lawmakers. But a close to Kishida said, “The tide may change” if Kono and Ishiba join hands.