TOKYO: The Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction, which was led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is taking a lead over other factions in recruiting lawmakers newly elected to the House of Councillors.
Among LDP candidates who ran in the July 10 election for the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, 20 rookies and two former Upper House members won seats.
Four of them have decided to join the Abe faction, including rookie Akiko Ikuina, a former member of now-disbanded all-girl pop group Onyanko Club, elected from the Tokyo constituency.
Two others have conveyed their willingness to enter the faction led by LDP Vice President Taro Aso.
Many new LDP lawmakers are still taking a wait-and-see stance amid signs that intraparty political dynamics may change following the sudden death of Abe, gunned down during a stump speech in the western city of Nara on July 8.
As the size of factions may affect intraparty power struggles, the battle for recruiting new members is expected to intensity.
“We’ll further strengthen our efforts to increase fellow faction members as much as possible,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, the No. 2 figure in the faction led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, said at a meeting of the group Thursday.
“I have received offers from many factions, but I have not decided yet,” a newcomer said.
Other than the rookies and former Upper House members who have come back, two Upper House incumbents who retained their seats in the election have decided to rejoin the Abe faction.
Meanwhile, two other incumbents belonging to the faction are set to retire from politics after the end of their Upper House terms Monday.
As a result, the membership of the Abe faction is set to increase to 97 from 94 before the Upper House election.
The Aso faction welcomes rookie Toshimitsu Funahashi, elected from the Hokkaido constituency, and Keiichiro Asao, who came back by winning a seat in the Kanagawa constituency.
Funahashi used to belong to the Aso faction when he was a member of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, while Asao received full support in the Upper House election from key faction member and former LDP Secretary-General Akira Amari, whose constituency is in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The faction headed by current Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi saw its members decrease to 51. Two incumbents of the faction left the chamber without running in the latest election, while another incumbent failed to win a seat.
Motegi is working hard to expand the membership. He visited many constituencies to give stump speeches for rookie candidates and sent aides to support many candidates.
A rookie elected from the Chiba constituency is expected to join the Motegi faction.
As for the Kishida faction, the successor to farm minister Genjiro Kaneko, who represented the Nagasaki constituency and reached the end of his Upper House term Monday, has decided to join, a senior official said.
In the Lower House election in October last year, the Kishida faction failed to increase its presence although it is the faction of the LDP president.
The Kishida faction is often called “a group of court nobles” for its lack of aggressiveness in power struggles. This time, however, the group will make all-out efforts to increase its members.
On Thursday, Masataka Ishihara, who won his first seat in last year’s Lower House election, told Kishida of his intention to join the faction. Kishida replied, “Let’s build up Japanese politics together.”
The faction led by former Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai aims to increase its membership by at least two.
The Abe and Kishida factions are in a tug of war over Hokuto Hoshi, who won his seat in the Fukushima constituency in the Upper House election.
The prime minister made his first stump speech for the poll in the northeastern prefecture.
While most of the LDP’s Diet members elected from the prefecture belong to the Abe faction, Kishida faction members say it is better to join them than the Abe faction, which may split.
The Aso and Kishida factions are both calling on Kazuhiro Kobayashi, who won his Upper House seat in the Niigata constituency, to join their groups. In Niigata, Kishida made his final Upper House campaign speech.
The Motegi and Nikai factions are competing over Yohei Wakabayashi, elected from the Shizuoka constituency.