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A Revolt in the Nukaga Faction

SNA (Tokyo) — The Nukaga Faction with its 55 lawmakers is the third largest of the ruling party’s factions. The turmoil which broke out into the open yesterday could potentially have an impact on the Liberal Democratic Party presidential race in September, in which Shinzo Abe will seek an unprecedented third term against one or more challengers.

The Nukaga Faction (also known as the Heisei Kenkyukai) has a proud lineage, having produced three past prime ministers—Noboru Takeshita, Ryutaro Hashimoto, and Keizo Obuchi. However, the current incumbent as faction chief, Fukushiro Nukaga, has been in place since 2009 and has never been regarded as a serious prospect as the leader of the party or the nation.

That is a big part of the problem. The 21 members of the faction who belong to the House of Councillors appear to have concluded that Nukaga lacks any real political ability and his personal weakness is seriously damaging the clout of the entire faction. They want him out now.

Unknown at the time to the media or the public, at the beginning of this year Hiromi Yoshida, leading the rebel movement, met with Fukushiro Nukaga face-to-face and asked him to step down. Nukaga refused. Yesterday the rebels went public.

One major problem the rebels have, however, is that the top candidates who might replace Nukaga possess problems of their own. Wataru Takeshita is a crusty old conservative who regularly makes controversial statements; and Yuko Obuchi is still young and tainted by a political funds scandal. Neither of them adds much clout beyond their legendary family names.

For the time being, Nukaga is refusing to resign as head of the faction, but with such a large group having turned against him, it’s difficult to imagine the status quo continuing for very long.

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