PLD election in Japan: Fumio Kishida could become next prime minister after winning leadership vote

Kishida is widely expected to take the reins of the world’s third-largest economy once parliament convenes in October, succeeding outgoing prime minister Yoshihide Suga, because of the majority of the PLD in the lower house. The general election is expected to take place later this year.

In a speech after his victory, Kishida said he would “start running at full speed” to work towards “a bright future for Japan”.

Kishida, 64, will inherit a Japan that has suffered an increase in Covid-19 infections, with numerous states of emergency and growing frustration among businesses over exiting the pandemic.
A moderate liberal seen as a stabilizing arm, he will also lead Japan’s foreign and domestic policy, defining relations with China, the United States and others regional partners, and shape the country’s position on defense, economy and social issues.

“Japan’s national crisis will continue. We must continue our efforts with desperate determination to take action against Covid-19,” Kishida said in his speech on Wednesday.

“In addition, we must resolutely develop economies of scale of several tens of trillions by the end of the year,” he added. “Beyond that, there are many important issues related to the future of Japan, such as the new capitalism, the achievement of a free and open Indo-Pacific and measures against the falling birth rate.”

The LDP leadership race has been the most unpredictable in decades, and none of the four candidates – Kishida, Vaccine Minister Taro Kono, Home Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi and House of Representatives Member Seiko Noda – n ‘obtained a majority in the initial vote.

After the second round, Kishida received a total of 257 votes – from 249 members of parliament and eight grassroots members – to defeat Kono, who obtained a total of 170 votes.

During the campaign, candidates were divided on key issues such as restrictions related to Covid-19, same-sex marriage, renewable energy, the economy and security. It was also the first time that the LDP elections featured multiple female candidates – rare in a country where women are grossly under-represented in politics, with only 14% parliamentary seats occupied by women.
Kishida was the country’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2017, under the leadership of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo abe.

Abe, whose second term lasted eight years, resigned last September due to health concerns.

Suga took on the lead role but announced earlier this month he would not be running for his party leadership after a checkered tenure marked by declining public support as he struggled to contain the coronavirus.

Analysts say Kishida is seen as a consensus builder who represents stability. This was his second candidacy to become leader of the LDP.

“The Japanese think about stability and preventing radical change. Kishida stands for (sustainability) and stability,” said Stephen Nagy, professor of international relations at Tokyo International Christian University, adding that Japanese CEOs consider Kishida as the most favorable choice.

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Kishida campaigned to close the income gap, claiming that Abe’s eponymous economic policies – known as “Abenomics” – failed to “trickle down” from the rich to the poor. He said nuclear power should be seen as a clean energy option and offered a strong economic stimulus package.

Analysts say the question now is whether Kishida will be a lasting leader or whether Japan will return to a period of political instability similar to that of the pre-Abe era.

“Whether you like Abe or not, he’s had eight years in power to fine-tune policies. We’ve seen positive changes in corporate governance, women in the economy, migration policy, but that’s because that they’ve been pushed over time, ”Nagy said. . “Will it be a revolving door of a prime minister, or will it be a leader in power for four to five years who can make all of these changes?” “

Kishida won the second round against Kono, 58, the popular Japanese vaccine minister who also served as the country’s foreign and defense minister.

While historic that two female candidates – Takiichi, 60, and Noda, 61 – stood for the LDP election, neither garnered enough support to become Japan’s first female prime minister.

CNN’s Chandler Thornton contributed reporting.

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