The Yomiuri Shimbun
Unopposed reelection of Abe as LDP leader a positive course
We think it appropriate that the schedule for election of the Liberal Democratic Party president has been decided from the standpoint of lessening its effects on Diet deliberations of the security-related bills, which are the most important business in the current session.
Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term as LDP president expires at the end of September, the main ruling party decided to hold its presidential election on Sept. 20, with the official campaign period to begin on Sept. 8.
An LDP presidential race at the expiration of a presidential term is normally held before an extraordinary session of the Diet in autumn. However, since the current ordinary Diet session has been significantly extended, the upcoming election is held during the session — an exceptional situation.
The LDP considered other schedules, such as holding the vote on Sept. 27 with a campaign period starting on Sept. 15. However, since deliberations on the security-related bills are a little stagnant at the House of Councillors, the party has decided to hold the election as early as its election regulations permit after examining its effects on deliberations of and voting on the bills at the Diet, as well as a scheduled trip abroad by the prime minister.
In the presidential race, Abe is highly likely to be elected again without a contest.
All seven factions of the LDP, including the Hiroyuki Hosoda faction of which Abe was originally a member, have decided to support the prime minister. With such moves, the factions apparently aim to win posts for their members in the Cabinet reshuffle and the changes of LDP executives expected in October after the current Diet session adjourns.
Shigeru Ishiba, minister in charge of vitalizing local economies, competed with Abe in the LDP leadership race in September 2012, but he does not intend to run for the presidency this time because he is currently a member of the Abe Cabinet. Former LDP General Council head Seiko Noda is trying hard to run for the election but is said to be having difficulty collecting the support from 20 LDP lawmakers required for candidacy.
No rival candidate
Considering the prime minister’s achievements in the last three years, it is certainly not easy to field a rival candidate. Abe has built a strong political foundation by scoring crushing victories in two House of Representatives elections and one upper house election. Even after a drop, his Cabinet still has a public approval rate above 40 percent.
In September last year, Abe reshuffled his Cabinet but retained ministers necessary to keep its basic frame, such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minster Taro Aso. At the same time, he appointed Sadakazu Tanigaki as LDP secretary general and Toshihiro Nikai as LDP General Council head, both executive posts of his party. The Abe regime has been made stable with his strategy of placing political heavyweights in important posts in anticipation of a long-term government.
If several candidates run for the presidential race, it is likely to create an opportunity for policy discussions on the course of Japan for the next three years. However, can the LDP afford that now?
The global economy is destabilized, and the recovery of the Japanese economy is at a standstill. Is it really productive to spend energy on making counterproposals to Abenomics, the prime minister’s economic policy package, and fighting among members of the same party?
The security-related bills are extremely significant in terms of securing the peace and safety of Japan and the surrounding region, but the understanding of the bills is not necessarily spreading among the public.
With Diet deliberations on the bills entering a crucial phase, it is also difficult to secure the environment necessary to hold a full-scale presidential election, including arrangements for a stumping tour of candidates around the country and voting by party members.
It may be a positive course for LDP members to unite under Abe to overcome difficult challenges.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2015)