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Who’s leading the pack for post-Abe leadership

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PYEONGTAEK, SOUTH KOREA – succession? Based on the two key sources of power for a prime ministerial candidate, it is still Taro Kono, but he is treading water at the moment. While he was able to hang onto a Cabinet posting in this latest reshuffle despite Abe’s preference to have him out, the defense minister billet is not a kingmaker position.

Fortunately for Kono, he belongs to the second-largest LDP faction. That faction operates under Taro Aso, but Aso inherited it from Kono’s father, Yohei Kono. It stands to reason that the faction will make a strong push for Taro Kono to ascend to national leadership once Abe’s run is through, and this push will be bolstered by the fact that Kono enjoys a good reputation among the public. He may, however, find himself up against Abe’s dark horse successor.

New Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has hardly caught anyone’s attention as a viable option for the next prime minister, and in their defense, Motegi is still a work in progress. If power were to change hands overnight, he would not stand a chance, but if Abe lasts for another year or two, Motegi will be best-positioned to succeed him.

Motegi is a member of Wataru Takeshita’s faction, the third-largest group in the LDP. Those kind of factional numbers are desirable for any prime minister hopeful, but Motegi has a problem: He is not Takeshita’s first choice for prime minister. The split between Motegi and Takeshita became most evident in the LDP’s last presidential election, with Motegi’s cohort supporting Abe and Takeshita’s group supporting Shigeru Ishiba. Motegi has a chance to wrest control of the faction away from Takeshita though. The rift is already there, and the aging Takeshita has been battling throat cancer. If Motegi gets enough momentum and intraparty backing,........

© The Japan Times