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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Former Japanese diplomat Fumio Kishida wins election, set to be next prime minister

Seoul, September 29 (WNN) — Japan’s former top diplomat Fumio Kishida won a leadership vote on Wednesday by lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but maintained that he would be the country’s next prime minister.

Kishida, 64, will replace the highly unpopular Yoshihide Suga, who announced earlier this month that he would step down after serving just one year in office.

The Japanese parliament is controlled by the LDP and coalition partner Komito and Kishida is expected to elect the country’s 100th prime minister in a session on Monday.

The next leader of the world’s third-largest economy faces tough challenges at home and around the world, from bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control and stimulating growth to tackling security threats from North Korea and China .

“We live in a national crisis,” Kishida told LDP lawmakers after the vote. “We must try and continue our coronavirus response and create an economic package of the size of dozens of trillion yen by the end of the year.”

Kishida won the party leadership battle in an unusually close race, with none of the first four candidates securing a majority in the first round of voting.

In a second-round runoff, Kishida topped Taro Kono, the 58-year-old popular cabinet minister in charge of Japan’s vaccination rollout, by a margin of 170 to 257 votes.

Kono was the popular favorite in public polls, with a reform-minded message and a discerning social media presence that is rare among Japanese politicians.

According to analysts, in electing the moderate Kishida, who served as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2017, the LDP is emphasizing stability and continuity.

“As far as the party is concerned, Kishida is the safer option,” said Craig Mark, a professor of international studies at Kyoritsu Women’s University in Tokyo. “The LDP’s rank-and-file see him as more consensus-building than Kono.”

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On the foreign policy front, Kishida faced a more downtrodden position than his staunch LDP competitor Sane Takaichi, who was backed by Abe.

Kishida supports stronger cooperation with the United States and other countries in the regional Quad grouping against an increasingly assertive China. He has said he will continue to increase the defense budget and has called for dialogue and stable relations with Japan’s biggest trading partner, China.

Domestically, Kishida campaigned to reduce Japan’s income inequality, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was a chief under Abe who, in a departure from deregulation and market-oriented policies, was vowing a stimulus package worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

“It will be interesting to see whether the promises Kishida made during his campaign to address income inequality can actually carry on,” Mark said. “That’s probably the biggest change, that he said he’s going to leave Abenomics.”

Kishida’s immediate tasks will include the renaming of his cabinet, which will continue to feature prominent figures such as Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

The soft-spoken Kishida will also have to lead the LDP through a national election, which should be held by November 28.

While the LDP, which has been in power almost continuously since its inception in 1955, is expected to maintain control against a weak opposition, how it decides in the popular vote is to keep Kishida’s agenda in a stable- How easily can be carried forward through a brittle party.

“It remains to be seen how strong the victory turns out to be,” Mark said. “If it’s close because [Kishida] If he is not as popular as Kono, he will be in a vulnerable position among party factions.”


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