Updated August. 25, 2014 05:23
Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general and No. 2 man at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, rejected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abes offer to name him as minister for national security. As a result, with the Abe regime on shaky ground, watchers say that power game could unfold ahead of the election to select the partys new chairman set in September next year.
According to the Asahi Shimbun on Sunday, Ishiba has decided not to accept the post of minister for national security legislation (new post), which the prime minister is seeking to instate in a Cabinet reshuffle set for early next month. Ishiba recently told close confidents that he has different value judgment on exercise of the collective self-defense right than Prime Minister Abes. (If I enter the Cabinet), I should suppress my own thought when answering at the Diet, and this constitutes self-denial for a politician.
Abe passed on July 1 the collective self-defense right, which earned public objection, by using the method of "Cabinet decision." Ishiba did not publicly express objection to Abes intention, but is holding the belief that the Diet should decide whether to pass the collective self-defense right. He thus believes that laws at the parliament, rather than the governments arbitrary judgment, should be the basis to decide whether to exercise the right or not. For this reason, he feels uncomfortable about assuming the minister for national security legislation, who will take charge in the subsequent enactment of laws concerning the collective self-defense right.
Insiders in the Japanese political circle are paying keen attention to whether Abe will offer Ishiba another minister post in lieu of the minister for national security legislation. Ishiba reportedly displayed a stance that if he is offered appointment as another Cabinet post, he would carefully consider it.
Attention is paid on whether Ishiba will join the Cabinet or not due to election to select the next chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is scheduled in September next year. If Ishiba enters the Cabinet, he will likely play a role to assist Abe in the election. Analysts in the Japanese political community say that under this circumstance, running for the prime minister post can be likened to a vassal betraying the king, and hence is virtually out of the question.
Aware of such situation, aides to Ishiba say, He should decline all offers to join the Cabinet, claiming that he should run in next year` election for the party chairman post after staying away from all posts.
Ishiba has been enjoying high public approval rating. In the election for the Liberal Democratic Party chairman in September 2012, he ranked first in the first-round vote that involved party members, its supporters and lawmakers. At that time, Abe came from behind to win the final vote, which only involved lawmakers.
Abe considers Ishiba his strongest rival. If he does not take a preemptive measure, he might see a situation where an "anti-Abe faction" emerges and prevails in the party. Insiders in the Japanese political circle are wary of Abes next strategic move and Ishibas response.