Meet the ‘shadow shogun’ behind the making of Japan’s next prime minister

Meet the ‘shadow shogun’ behind the making of Japan’s next prime minister

He has been dubbed the kingmaker and the shadow shogun, the man who used his tremendous influence within the Liberal Democratic Party to quickly convince its biggest factions to back Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as party president and, accordingly, prime minister. Though an octogenarian, he is also expected to play a key role in a new administration most likely to be headed by Suga.

On Tuesday, 81-year-old Toshihiro Nikai, who assumed the post in August 2016, became the party’s longest serving secretary-general. He took over the top spot from former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who served as LDP secretary-general from June 1965 to December 1966 and then from November 1968 to July 1971 under Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.

It was Nikai who moved quickly after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom the secretary-general had strongly supported, announced late last month he would step down, just days after Abe set his own record as the nation’s longest-serving prime minister in terms of consecutive tenure in office.

Concerned about a protracted interparty struggle to replace Abe, Nikai then announced his own 47-member faction would support Suga. More importantly, he quickly convinced four other powerful factions to back Suga.

These included the 98-member faction led by Hiroyuki Hosoda (of which Abe is a member), the 54-member faction led by Finance Minister Taro Aso, the 54-member faction led by Wataru Takeshita and a small faction of 11 members led by Nobuteru Ishihara.