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News Navigator: Why is Japan PM Kishida staying in his LDP faction after assuming office?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a meeting of his faction in Tokyo on Nov. 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Odanaka)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about political factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

    Question: Fumio Kishida, president of the LDP, has shown up at meetings of his intraparty faction even after he took office as prime minister. Is a prime minister permitted to remain in their faction?

    Answer: As a general rule, the prime minister is supposed to leave their faction. In its political reform outline drawn up in 1989, the LDP set a rule that the party's president, secretary-general and Cabinet ministers are to leave their respective factions. The rule was established the year after the Recruit corruption scandal surfaced, in which corporate executives bribed powerful political figures. Following the scandal, calls mounted within the LDP that party executives should leave their factions in order to make political funds more transparent. However, Kishida is not abiding by this in-house rule.

    Q: Were there any other prime ministers in the past who remained in their factions?

    A: Former Prime Minister Taro Aso also concurrently served as LDP president and head of his own faction. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi left his faction before running in the LDP presidential race, which he won. Each faction had boosted its membership through allocation of posts and funds, thereby seeking to get its members elected to the party presidency by securing more votes. Koizumi stayed away from his faction to highlight his reformist stance, leading to his sweeping victory in a vote by rank-and-file party members in the LDP leadership contest.

    Q: Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also left his faction, didn't he?

    A: Abe left his faction after he assumed the LDP's presidency in 2012. The move was aimed at pressing forward with party reform without being constrained by political ties, but the fact that Abe had faced off with former Chief Cabinet Secretary and faction head Nobutaka Machimura in the LDP leadership race also influenced Abe's move. It was also aimed at realizing politics led by the prime minister's office by diluting the party's influence under a slogan of breaking with factional maneuvering.

    Q: So is Prime Minister Kishida attaching weight to his faction?

    A: In the House of Representatives election in October, Kishida energetically campaigned for candidates belonging to his faction, while paying notable consideration to each LDP faction in appointing Cabinet ministers and party executives. Yet in the LDP leadership race in September, many factions decided not to unify candidates they back, representing a change within the party. The LDP is urged to contemplate what the role of its factions should be down the road.

    (Japanese original by Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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