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Why Shinzo Abe is backing a little-known hawk

20 12 5

Why is former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe throwing his weight behind Sanae Takaichi — a politician little known among the public beyond her conservative views?

Perhaps it’s because Abe genuinely believes former internal affairs minister Takaichi is the right person for continuity and has a shared vision for the country. Or maybe as the one who started womenomics, Abe thinks it’s high time Japan chooses a woman to run the world’s third-largest economy.

There is likely some truth behind both those motives. But it’s also a maneuver by the former prime minister so that the heavyweights of the Liberal Democratic Party can maintain control of the increasingly fluid political situation within Japan’s governing party.

The LDP presidential race, which formally began Friday, is becoming increasingly unpredictable because of the election’s format this time around, which gives substantial weight to rank-and-file votes that are more reflective of public opinion.

The race is tight, fought among Takaichi, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, administrative reform minister Taro Kono and former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda. If opinion polls are any indication, Kono is by far the front-runner among the public — but some within the party are concerned that the reformist could usher in radical change and wreck the LDP’s well-established system.

The LDP presidential election has always been a numbers game. In the past, that game was played almost entirely within the confines of the party headquarters in Tokyo, but in this upcoming race, it is the LDP’s local chapters that stand to shape the outcome.

When the LDP’s sitting members of parliament cast their votes on Sept. 29, the party branch in each prefecture will gather and count all the ballots from rank-and-file members throughout the........

© The Japan Times

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