TOKYO -- Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership hopeful Shigeru Ishiba was warned on Aug. 30 by fellow party legislator Hiromi Yoshida that Ishiba's campaign slogan could be taken as a personal attack on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Yoshida, secretary-general of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors, controls the chamber's members of the LDP's Takeshita faction, which has pledged support for Ishiba going into the September race. While Yoshida once again pledged full support of the faction, he also warned Ishiba against making any statements and actions that could be taken as a personal attack on Prime Minister Abe, his opponent in the possibly two-man party presidential race.
The meeting between the two men at a Tokyo hotel was the first since Yoshida pledged support from the upper house members of the Takeshita faction.
Ishiba has used a campaign slogan calling for "honest, fair" politics, an apparent jab at the prime minister's favoritism scandals involving school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution. Of this slogan, Yoshida warned, "It looks like a personal attack, and I am appalled."
"It is not a personal attack. It is what I have advocated as my political ideology," Ishiba explained, and made it clear that he has no intention of changing the slogan. However, he followed up that he would now focus strictly on policy debate, and indicated that he would be more careful of the situation.
Ahead of the LDP presidential election, Prime Minister Abe has secured the support of roughly 70 percent of the votes belonging to LDP Diet members. Comparing Ishiba and his supporters to the public high school baseball team from Akita Prefecture that made it to the final of the "Koshien" national championship against an elite private school earlier this month, Yoshida said, "(Akita Prefectural) Kanaashi Nogyo (High School) continued to fight vowing to win with only nine players until the very end against the ultra-elite Osaka Toin (High School). Let us move forward with an attitude like Kanaashi Nogyo."
Ishiba quickly adopted this call to arms, saying in a meeting of his political faction later that day, "It was the commitment and perseverance of Kanaashi Nogyo that moved the hearts of people across Japan. We must do the same in this race."
(Japanese original by Keiko Takahashi, Political News Department)