All you need to know about how Abe’s successor will be chosen

All you need to know about how Abe’s successor will be chosen

The world is watching Japan in anticipation to see who will be the next to lead the country.

The choice is neither up to the Japanese people, nor is it something that will be decided within the confines of the Diet, Japan’s parliament. Instead, the decision rests solely within the headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Much of the media will focus on the personalities and policies of the candidates seeking to take on Japan’s top job, but those are not the most important determinants. Instead, what’s more important is to look at the mechanics of how a successor will be chosen, since that has a lot more to do with who will succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe than the agenda that the individual will champion once in the post.

After all, LDP party presidential elections are not policy games, they are numbers games. At the end of the day, the Japanese prime minister is the person that can win a “majority of the majority,” meaning the person’s party wins the majority of seats in the legislature, and the person wins the majority of votes within the party.

In the LDP, getting intra-party votes is not just about who has the strongest policy platform or who the Japanese public prefers the most — it is about who can best manage party politics to become its president.

Underwriting those intra-party politics are LDP factions. As I have described before in The Japan Times, it is not unusual for a political party to have cliques, blocs, or other similar groups, but in the LDP, these are simply institutionalized with formal membership and structure.

Five of the LDP’s factions are as old as the party itself — holdovers from when Japan’s center-left to right parties joined forces to form the LDP back in 1955. Since then, others have come and gone, but there are currently seven factions in existence today.