Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Takashi Arimoto

【#1115】Abe Faction Disbandment Reflects Heavenly Voice

Takashi Arimoto / 2024.02.07 (Wed)

February 5, 2024

The largest faction within Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party was destined to be disbanded. This is because the Abe faction, officially known as the Seiwa Policy Study Group, had not only lost its guiding compass in the form of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as its chairman, wandering in choosing his successor, but also failed to follow Abe’s instruction to stop a practice of omitting some of the group’s fundraising party income from its political fund reports.

Responsibility of top officials left ambiguous

“The disbandment reflects the late Abe’s heavenly voice,” said a former aide to the former prime minister. After assuming the chairmanship of the Seiwa Group in November 2021, Abe got aware of the group’s practice of kicking back an excess over each group member’s quota for the sale of tickets for the group’s fundraising parties to the member without specifying the kickback in political fund reports. He instructed to stop the practice.

Well-known Abe had feared that his sale of tickets for the group’s fundraising parties would make it difficult for other members of the group to sell such tickets up to their respective quotas and paid contributions equivalent to his quota to the group from other funds he collected, without selling party tickets, according to the former aide. Before becoming the chairman, Abe had not been aware of the kickback practice, the former aide said. In 2022, he was surprised to learn the practice and immediately instructed to stop it. Nevertheless, the group’s top officials resumed the practice in the wake of his assassination in July, while preparations were being made for the state funeral for Abe in September.

“If the group had stopped the practice at the time, the current political fund scandal would not have happened,” the former aide said angrily. “If the top officials who were infatuated by the selection of Abe’s successor feel sorry to Abe, I would like to urge them to honestly confess that they led the resumption of the practice.” While the responsibility of the top officials was questioned, it was left ambiguous due to the group’s disbandment.

Amend constitution to take over Abe’s wish

There are voices suggesting that the Seiwa Group members, centered around Tatsuo Fukuda, a former LDP General Council Chairman and a grandson of the faction’s founder, should gather as a 'policy group' at an opportune time. This idea is utterly laughable. A mere numbers game will not bring any real change.

Abe formed an organization called “Sosei Nippon (creating Japan)” to launch a nationwide movement with like-minded lawmakers in order to break away from the postwar regime and create a proud country. The mother body of the second Abe administration inaugurated in December 2012 was this organization instead of the Seiwa Group.

Some 100 faction members, accounting for a quarter of LDP National Diet lawmakers, will not be able to face the late Abe unless they do something. What should they do then? At a press conference on the occasion of his resignation as prime minister in August 2020, Abe cited the resolution of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens, a peace treaty with Russia, and constitutional amendment as his unfinished works, saying, “Leaving my job in the middle of my aspirations is a gut-wrenching thought.” While there is a negotiation counterpart involved in the peace treaty and the abduction issue, constitutional amendment can be achieved by Japan alone. Abe faction lawmakers should go back to their original intention of taking over Abe’s wish and make utmost efforts to amend the constitution.

Takashi Arimoto is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.