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TokyoNow: LDP factions undergoing drastic changes.

TOKYO, Sept. 14 Kyodo

The influence of once powerful intraparty factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is being weakened with the statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that he will not accept recommendations from factions in selecting Cabinet ministers and party executives in a reshuffle scheduled for late September.

The power of factions is also being undermined as relationships are being formed ''horizontally'' among lawmakers of the same generation without regard to which faction they belong to, party sources said.

The LDP's factions traditionally have been ''vertical'' alliances formed by bosses and their followers, with bosses giving the latter money and posts.

But these alliances began losing their raison d'etre in 2001 when Koizumi took office and declared his intention to rid the LDP of factions.

In late August, when prosecutors raided the office of Heisei Kenkyukai (Heisei Study Group), an LDP faction then headed by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, and arrested its former treasurer over a political donation scandal, lawmakers kept their distance.

Hashimoto quit the faction after immediately afterward.

Each LDP faction maintains an office at or near the political center of Nagatacho in central Tokyo, and holds a weekly meeting.

Recently, though, some of these meetings have been taking place in conference rooms at the LDP headquarters.

A veteran lawmaker of the former Hashimoto faction noted that the atmosphere at these meetings is decidedly low key compared to the past, when factions played a much more influential role in Japanese politics.

''The air of tension that prevailed during the Takeshita faction era is completely lacking,'' he said. Noboru Takeshita was prime minister from November 1987 to June 1989.

Amid the erosion of factional strength and influence, LDP lawmakers belonging to the same generation are forming their own groups without regard to factions.

Two years ago, powerful lawmakers in their 60s regarded as possible successors to Koizumi inaugurated a group called ''Shishi no Kai'' (society of men of noble ideals).

Its members comprise Takeo Hiranuma, former minister of economy, trade and industry belonging to the Kamei faction, Makoto Koga, former LDP secretary general belonging to the Horiuchi faction, Masahiko Komura, former foreign minister belonging to the Komura faction, and Taro Aso, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications belonging to the former Kono group.

They hold a regular meeting, the most recent of which took place on Sept. 6 and was attended by Koizumi.

In October last year, about 20 lawmakers in their 30s and 40s formed a group, called ''Shinsedai Sori wo Tsukuru Kai'' (society to create a new-generation prime minister) and launched a campaign using the Internet to choose the next LDP president from among 24 younger lawmakers, including LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba and Seiko Noda, former posts and telecommunications minister.

Ichita Yamamoto, a House of Councillors member belonging to the Mori faction, said, ''Those in their 60s want to become LDP president based on the number of Diet members they can gather together through alliances among old factions. But a prime minister chosen that way is hamstrung by relationships when it comes to pursuing reforms .''

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, secretary general of the Shinsedai group, said that as party reforms progress, the relevance of factions will become less and less.

Akihiko Kumashiro, a House of Representatives member who quit the former Hashimoto faction in August, said, ''Factions have no significance at a time when a two-party system is being created in which power is being contested with the Democratic Party of Japan.''

The influence of once powerful intraparty factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is being weakened with the statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that he will not accept recommendations from factions in selecting Cabinet ministers and party executives in a reshuffle scheduled for late September.

The power of factions is also being undermined as relationships are being formed ''horizontally'' among lawmakers of the same generation without regard to which faction they belong to, party sources said.

The LDP's factions traditionally have been ''vertical'' alliances formed by bosses and their followers, with bosses giving the latter money and posts.

But these alliances began losing their raison d'etre in 2001 when Koizumi took office and declared his intention to rid the LDP of factions.

In late August, when prosecutors raided the office of Heisei Kenkyukai (Heisei Study Group), an LDP faction then headed by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, and arrested its former treasurer over a political donation scandal, lawmakers kept their distance.

Hashimoto quit the faction after immediately afterward.

Each LDP faction maintains an office at or near the political center of Nagatacho in central Tokyo, and holds a weekly meeting.

Recently, though, some of these meetings have been taking place in conference rooms at the LDP headquarters.

A veteran lawmaker of the former Hashimoto faction noted that the atmosphere at these meetings is decidedly low key compared to the past, when factions played a much more influential role in Japanese politics.

''The air of tension that prevailed during the Takeshita faction era is completely lacking,'' he said. Noboru Takeshita was prime minister from November 1987 to June 1989.

Amid the erosion of factional strength and influence, LDP lawmakers belonging to the same generation are forming their own groups without regard to factions.

Two years ago, powerful lawmakers in their 60s regarded as possible successors to Koizumi inaugurated a group called ''Shishi no Kai'' (society of men of noble ideals).

Its members comprise Takeo Hiranuma, former minister of economy, trade and industry belonging to the Kamei faction, Makoto Koga, former LDP secretary general belonging to the Horiuchi faction, Masahiko Komura, former foreign minister belonging to the Komura faction, and Taro Aso, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications belonging to the former Kono group.

They hold a regular meeting, the most recent of which took place on Sept. 6 and was attended by Koizumi.

In October last year, about 20 lawmakers in their 30s and 40s formed a group, called ''Shinsedai Sori wo Tsukuru Kai'' (society to create a new-generation prime minister) and launched a campaign using the Internet to choose the next LDP president from among 24 younger lawmakers, including LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba and Seiko Noda, former posts and telecommunications minister.

Ichita Yamamoto, a House of Councillors member belonging to the Mori faction, said, ''Those in their 60s want to become LDP president based on the number of Diet members they can gather together through alliances among old factions. But a prime minister chosen that way is hamstrung by relationships when it comes to pursuing reforms .''

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, secretary general of the Shinsedai group, said that as party reforms progress, the relevance of factions will become less and less.

Akihiko Kumashiro, a House of Representatives member who quit the former Hashimoto faction in August, said, ''Factions have no significance at a time when a two-party system is being created in which power is being contested with the Democratic Party of Japan.''
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Sep 20, 2004
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