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Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006
Some LDP freshmen decide to support Abe
By MASAMI ITO
About 40 freshman Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers gathered Tuesday afternoon to express support for Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe in the party's presidential election on Sept. 20.
Meanwhile, some 20 lawmakers from a separate group of 37 freshmen met in the morning but failed to agree on whether they should jointly back Abe's candidacy, although most reportedly do.
Participants in the afternoon meeting included high-profile scholar Kuniko Inoguchi, former bureaucrat Satsuki Katayama and Hirotaka Ishihara, son of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
"As individuals, we want to support the candidate of our choice," said Tadayoshi Nagashima, the first-year lawmaker who proposed the meeting.
"And (we) would like to entrust (the post of) party president to Abe, to be the leader of a new LDP, and a new Japan."
Abe, who attended the meeting, expressed his appreciation for the support and said he looks forward to the election.
"We must not stop the reform," said Abe, who has yet to declare his candidacy. "If we stop the reform, the (LDP) has no future in the next election. . . . A fighting politician is someone who will change the party, the world and Japan."
The meeting ended with the participants shouting their support for Abe.
The second group, however, headed by Jiro Ono, former secretary to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, failed to reach a consensus on Abe. The members have pledged not to join any LDP faction, at least until after the presidential election.
"The majority agreed to support Abe," Ono said. "But there were many voices stressing that a consensus opinion would" clash with the group's original purpose, which is to end politics based on factional power struggles.
This group was formed in June on the advice of Koizumi and LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe, who urged new Diet members not to join factions.
In an interview with The Japan Times in July, Ono stressed that the group was different from factions in that its members would not take a unified position on who to vote for in the presidential election.
But last week, in an apparent about-face, Ono hinted the group might try to reach a consensus in favor of Abe.
The plan ran into strong opposition from members of the group.
"I am opposed to unifying our opinion," said Lower House member Yukari Iijima.
"The main purpose of this group is to enable members to express our opinions freely as nonfaction members, and unifying our opinions would go against that policy."