All eyes on LDP factions as Abe plots Cabinet shake-up for final term
-- Sep 02
With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to reshuffle his Cabinet later this month, attention is turning to who might get what posts, and from which Liberal Democratic Party factions any new ministers might be from.

Unlike most of the late 20th century, when the power struggles between rival LDP factions could make or break a prime minister, the overall power and influence of factions has waned.

But for LDP members, factions still function as a way of grouping like-minded politicians and as a source of information in the ever-complex political world of Nagatacho. And ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle and the convening of an extraordinary Diet session later in the fall, many LDP factions are planning to hold annual policy study sessions this week, which also are meant to strengthen bonds within the faction.

What are factions?

Officially, they are policy study groups made up of like-minded politicians within the party. Each faction has a policy platform members want to introduce. But in reality, they are groups that are meant to push their faction leader as LDP president, and therefore as prime minister, in its presidential election.

During the campaign, faction members frantically campaign to gather votes for their faction boss. Other work includes drafting policy platforms, persuading independent members and analyzing how many votes they have to win the election.

Faction rivalries also function as a way for members to compete with each other in terms of policies and power struggles as well as a way to train them to become seasoned politicians and ultimately seek to become prime minister.

In an article for the Australia-Japan Research Center published last August, Purnendra Jain, a professor at the University of Adelaide, and Takeshi Kobayashi, who works for a Diet member, argued that factions still matter for Abe because the members can vote in blocks and thus determine the outcome in LDP presidential elections.

In the 2018 LDP race, Abe secured a comfortable win with the support of four factions.

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