The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the titles of political party executives in Japan.
Question: The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) recently revamped its executive lineup, creating various titles that are complex. What titles are given to the heads of Japanese political parties?
Answer: There are certainly many titles and they vary among parties, making it complicated. The leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and CDP are called "presidents," while the heads of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party are called "chair" and "leader," respectively. "Executive," "senior" or "vice-" may be added to other top officials' titles. "Executive" is often superior to "senior," followed by "vice-," but it can be said that those prefixes were intentionally made difficult to understand, considering politicians' rank order and their dignity. Reporters can also get confused while covering stories about them.
Q: Doesn't that make it difficult to tell which officials are really in high positions?
A: In terms of the CDP's new executive lineup, which was established on Aug. 26, there are nine "Executive Board Members," who will coordinate and decide important matters to administer the party, including President Kenta Izumi and Secretary-General Katsuya Okada. They can be considered to be at the center of the CDP. Meanwhile, the LDP currently has 12 posts for politicians including President Fumio Kishida as "key LDP officials," who attend executive meetings.
Q: Who are the "four top party executives," which we often hear about?
A: These titles refer to pivotal party members among high officials. In the LDP, they consist of the secretary-general, the General Council chairperson, the Policy Research Council chairperson, and the Election Strategy Committee chairperson. These positions are held by people of influence such as those who have experience in a post such as a Cabinet minister. The General Council chairperson is a title unique to the LDP, and the person presides over the General Council -- the party's permanent decision-making body. The chairperson needs skills to coordinate matters in advance because the council operates under a principle of "unanimous vote."
Q: Why is the LDP's President Kishida not included in the four top executives?
A: The president of the LDP, which has been the ruling party for decades with the exception of a few years, has administered the central government as the prime minister of Japan. The LDP's secretary-general, who is slated to "assist the president in carrying out party affairs" under Article 8 of the LDP Constitution, is said to the be effective top official to operate the party while the president is absent, and has huge authority over personnel affairs, the distribution of funds and other matters.
(Japanese original by Soon Lee, Political News Department)