Factions in the Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)

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In a sense, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is not a single organization but a conglomeration of competitive factions, which, despite the traditional emphasis on consensus and harmony, engage in bitter infighting. Over the years, factions numbered from six to thirteen, with as few as four members and as many as 120, counting those in both houses. The system is operative in both houses, although it was more deeply entrenched in the House of Representatives than in the less powerful House of Councillors. Faction leaders usually are veteran LDP politicians. Many, but not all, have served as prime minister.

Faction leaders offer their followers services without which the followers would find it difficult, if not impossible, to survive politically. Leaders provide funds for the day-to-day operation of Diet members' offices and staff as well as financial support during expensive election campaigns. The operating allowances provided by the government are inadequate, even after the introduction of public funding in 1994. The leader also introduce his followers to influential bureaucrats and business people, which make it much easier for the followers to satisfy their constituents' demands.

Historical factions[edit]

Historically, the most powerful and aggressive faction leader in the LDP was Kakuei Tanaka, whose Mokuyo Club factions dual-house strength in the early 1980s exceeded 110. His followers remained loyal despite the fact that he had been convicted of receiving ¥500 million (nearly US$4 million) in bribes from Lockheed (the Lockheed scandal) to facilitate the purchase of its passenger aircraft by All Nippon Airways and that he had formally withdrawn from the LDP. Tanaka and his most bitter factional rival, Takeo Fukuda, were a study in contrasts. Tanaka was a roughhewn wheeler-dealer with a primary school education who had made a fortune in the construction industry; Fukuda was an elite product of the University of Tokyo Law Faculty and a career bureaucrat.

In the face of Fukuda's strong opposition, Tanaka engineered the selections of prime ministers Masayoshi Ohira (1978–80) and Zenko Suzuki (1980–82). The accession of Yasuhiro Nakasone to the prime ministership in 1982 would also not have occurred without Tanaka's support. As a result, Nakasone, at that time a politically weak figure, was nicknamed "Tanakasone." But Tanaka's faction was dealt a grave blow when one of his subordinates, Noboru Takeshita, decided to form a breakaway group. Tanaka suffered a stroke in November 1985, but four years passed before he formally retired from politics.

The LDP faction system was closely fitted to the House of Representatives' medium-sized, multiple-member election districts. The party usually ran more than one candidate in each of these constituencies to maintain its lower house majority, and these candidates were from different factions. During an election campaign, the LDP, in a real sense, ran not only against the opposition but also against itself. In fact, intraparty competition within one election district was often more bitter than interparty competition, with two or more LDP candidates vying for the same block of conservative votes. For example, in the House of Representatives election of February 18, 1990, three LDP and three opposition candidates competed for five seats in a southwestern prefecture. Two of the LDP candidates publicly expressed bitterness over the entry of the third, a son of the prefectural governor. Local television showed supporters of one of the LDP candidates cheering loudly when the governor's son was edged out for the fifth seat by a Komeito candidate.

List of major historical factions[edit]

The LDP's factions can loosely be grouped into two main currents. They developed in the years following the "conservative merger" (hoshu gōdō) of 1955 when Shigeru Yoshida's Liberal Party and Ichirō Hatoyama's Japan Democratic Party united to form the LDP. Factions of former Liberals are called hoshu honryū ("conservative mainstream") while the factions of former Democrats hoshu bōryū ("conservative anti-mainstream"). Present-day factions and leaders (as of January 2010) in bold.

  • Ex-Liberals ("conservative mainstream")
    • "Yoshida school" (Yoshida gakkō) centered around ex-bureaucrats loyal to Yoshida
      • Kōchikai (IkedaMaeoŌhiraSuzukiMiyazawaKatō faction), split following the "Katō rebellion" (Katō no ran) against party president Yoshirō Mori in 2000
        • Kōchikai (KatōOzatoTanigaki faction) of Katō loyalists, remerged into the other Kōchikai in 2008
        • Kōchikai (HoriuchiNiwa-KogaKoga faction), voted against Katō's no-confidence motion in 2000, now reunited under Koga
        • Taiyūkai (Kōno faction) → Ikōkai (Asō faction), formed by supporters of a second term for Yōhei Kōno in the LDP presidential election of 1995 from the Miyazawa faction
      • Mokuyō Kenkyūkai → Shūzankai → Mokuyō Club → Keiseikai → Heisei Kenkyūkai (SatōTanakaTakeshitaObuchiHashimotoTsushimaNukaga faction)
        • Shūzan Club (Hori faction), merged into the anti-mainstream's Fukuda faction
        • Kaikaku Forum 21 (Hata faction), split off the Takeshita faction in 1992 following the Sagawa Express scandal, voted with the opposition in a no-confidence motion against Kiichi Miyazawa in 1993 and subsequently left the LDP to form the Japan Renewal Party making the LDP lose its lower house majority ahead of the 1993 general election
      • Suiyōkai (OgataIshii faction)
    • Hatoyama supporters
  • Ex-Democrats ("conservative anti-mainstream")
    • Hatoyama supporters
      • Tōkakai → Tōfū Ishin Renmei (Kishi faction) → Yōkakai → Seiwakai → Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyūkai (FukudaAbeMitsuzukaMoriMachimura faction)
        • Aiseikai (Fujiyama faction), formed to support Fujiyama's (unsuccessful) runs in the LDP presidential elections of the 1960s
        • Kōyū Club (KawashimaShiina), split off from the Kishi faction in 1962, dissolved after Shiina's resignation
      • Shunjūkai (Kōno faction) → Shinsei Dōshikai → Seisaku Kagaku Kenkyūjo (NakasoneWatanabe faction), without a clear leader following Watanabe's death in 1995, merged with the Kamei group after the formation of Taku Yamasaki's independent faction in 1998
        • Shunjūkai (Kōno → MoriSonoda faction), merged into the Fukuda faction after Sonoda had died in 1984
        • Kinmirai Seiji Kenkyūkai (Yamasaki faction)
        • Shisuikai (MurakamiEtōKameiIbuki faction), formed by the remaining Ex-Watanabe faction members and a breakaway group from the Mitsuzuka faction led by Kamei
      • Kayōkai (Ishibashi faction) → Futsukakai (Ishida faction), merged into the Miki faction in 1971
    • former Kaishintō (Progressive Party)
      • Seisaku Kondankai (Miki-Matsumura faction) → Banchō Seisaku Kenkyūjo (Miki faction) → Shin-seisaku Kenkyūkai (Kōmoto faction) → Banchō Seisaku Kenkyūjo (Kōmura faction)
  • Others

Currently-existing factions[edit]

There are currently five major factions in the LDP. While most factions have official titles, in the Japanese media they are usually referred to by the names of their current leaders. From most to least powerful, they are:

Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyūkai ['Seiwa Political-analysis Council'] (Machimura Faction)[edit]

Led by ex-Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura. Founded by Takeo Fukuda in 1962. It is a pro-classical economics, nationalist (it includes many Japanese Neoconservatives) and conservative faction. Current Prime Minister and Party President Shinzō Abe belonged to this faction.[1] His deceased father Shintaro Abe was an ex-leader of this faction (1986–1991). Ex-Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Yoshirō Mori also formerly led the faction. As of 2004 it has overtaken the Hashimoto faction in the more powerful Lower House, but it continues to trail in total number of members in both houses combined. It currently holds 51 seats in the Lower House and 23 seats in the Upper House.

Heisei Kenkyūkai ['Heisei Research Council'] (Tsushima Faction)[edit]

The current chairman is Yuji Tsushima since September 2005. Formerly led by Ex-PM Ryutaro Hashimoto. The Tsushima faction was preceded by the Takeshita Faction of Noboru Takeshita. The faction's de facto leader is now Upper House member Mikio Aoki. It is a Keynesian, Right-liberal and pro-China faction. It has strong influence on bureaucrats. Ex-PM Hashimoto and the entire faction were recently hit with a scandal where the faction had apparently taken money from the Japan Dental Association. Hashimoto resigned as chairman of the faction in 2004 and retired from politics the following year. Possible replacements included Kosuke Hori, Fumio Kyuma, Takao Fujii, and Fukushiro Nukaga. It currently has 48 seats in the Lower House and 29 seats in the Upper House. It is split with members who support Mr. Koizumi and those who do not. There are more supporting Mr. Koizumi. Because it has been the largest in numbers, the accusation of influence peddling and pork-barrel politics is rife. It is a descendant of the Tanaka faction.

Shisuikai [Commander Plan Association] (Ibuki Faction)[edit]

Led by Bunmei Ibuki. After one member of this faction committed suicide at the beginning of August 2005 it has 27 seats in the Lower House and 18 seats in the Upper House. It is considered by many to be the most right-wing grouping among the major factions, though it is Keynesian and Right liberal in general and pro-International cooperation. This faction has effectively been dissolved since Kamei and other members left the party to establish the People's New Party in opposition to the postal privatisation bills.

Kōchikai [Large Reservoir Association] (Koga Faction)[edit]

The current chairman is Makoto Koga. Mitsuo Horiuchi was co-leader until he temporarily left the faction in October 2006. It currently has 32 seats in the Lower House and 14 seats in the Upper House. This group was under the leadership of Koichi Kato until a split in 2001. It is moderate on internal and foreign affairs but more conservative and critical to Mr. Koizumi but still moderately nationalist, and more successful than the section led by Kato. This faction historically has been the most prestigious faction, with many of its members drawn from the upper-ranks of the elite bureaucracy.

Kōchikai (Tanigaki Faction)[edit]

Led by Sadakazu Tanigaki. It was led by Koichi Kato until 2002, when Katō temporarily quit the Diet over a financial scandal surrounding his personal secretary. Kato was leader of the united Kochikai (including the wing now led by Horiuchi) until 2001, when the Kato Faction split after Katō had staged a failed rebellion against then-Prime Minister Mori Yoshirō. It has 12 seats in the Lower House and 4 seats in the Upper House. More moderate on internal and foreign affairs and in terms of nationalism than the Koga and Machimura factions.

Kinmirai Seiji Kenkyūkai ['Research for Politics of the Near Future'] (Yamasaki Faction)[edit]

Led by Taku Yamasaki. It has 24 seats in the Lower House and 5 seats in the Upper House. Moderate in general, conservative and aggressive with China and North Korea on Foreign Issues.

Banchō Seisaku Kenkyūjo ['Bancho Policy-analysis Institute'] (Komura Faction)[edit]

Led by Masahiko Komura. It has 12 seats in the Lower House and 2 seats in the Upper House. It is a pro-China and centrist faction.

Ikōkai [Convention for] (formerly known as Taiyūkai [Isamu Hiroshi Committee]) (Kono Faction)[edit]

Formerly led by Yōhei Konō, who is now Speaker of the House of Representatives. Once part of the former Katō faction, though this group split off during the mid-1990s. It has 9 seats in the Lower House and 1 seat in the Upper House. It is more critical to Koizumi and more reformist and pro-Chinese than the Machimura faction’s classical economics conservative nationalists. It is now known as the Former Kono Faction because the resignation of the faction chief and the inability of the faction to decide on a new leader.

Atarashii Nami ['New Wave'] (Nikai Faction)[edit]

Led by Toshihiro Nikai. It includes members of the former reformist conservative New Conservative Party, which was dissolved in 2003. It is one of the most right-wing groups in the LDP. It has 4 seats in the Lower House and 2 seats in the Upper House. Like the New Conservative Party who preceded it, it is made up of socially very conservative former Rightist elements of the Social democrat/Social liberal Democratic Party who agreed with its reformism, but later joined the LDP on basis of shared conservatism.

Unaffiliated diet members[edit]

There are 25 factionally unaffiliated LDP members in the Lower House and 17 in the Upper House.

References[edit]