Fumio Kishida to become Prime Minister of Japan after tight LDP leadership race

It is a victory that will have erased the pain of the defeat he suffered a year ago.

Fumio Kishida, the former foreign minister who was once the hand-picked successor to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, won the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election on Wednesday, becoming the alleged successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

With no candidate securing a majority in the first round, the second round was a head-to-head race between first place Kishida and second place Taro Kono, the vaccine czar and prime minister’s first choice in the polls of ‘opinion.

In the second round, Kishida – who garnered 256 votes in the first round (146 votes from PLD lawmakers and 110 votes from grassroots members) – defeated Kono by 257 votes to 170.

The new LDP chairman ran against Suga in last year’s election to choose Abe’s replacement. At that time, Abe was supportive of Suga, even though he had long regarded Kishida as a worthy successor. This time around, the country’s longest-serving prime minister has actively promoted Takaichi, whose conservative ideology aligns with his own.

Although his profile has grown thanks to the party leadership candidacies, Kishida’s notoriety is still poor at best, making it unclear whether he can capture the public imagination as leader of the PLD before. general elections scheduled for November.

The party and the public will examine Kishida’s aptitudes as a trustworthy leader able to maintain a majority in the Lower House and instill a sense of political stability at a time when the nation grapples with the COVID-pandemic. 19 and the growing security threats from North Korea and China.

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a campaign speech in Tokyo on September 17. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

An extraordinary session of the Diet will be called on Monday, during which Kishida will be officially appointed to take over the office of the prime minister. The PLD has a majority in the lower house, essentially guaranteeing that it will become prime minister.

Thereafter, he will immediately form a cabinet and appoint ministers.

Of the four candidates, he was the first to throw his hat in the ring, declaring his candidacy in late August at a time when Suga was still eager to get re-elected despite public approval.

Kishida was seen as the candidate who posed the most serious challenge to Suga at the time.

He also took a blow to Toshihiro Nikai, the party’s longest-serving general secretary, proposing a term limit of up to three consecutive years for party leaders – a declaration of war on Nikai.

Some lawmakers outside the Nikai faction have been angered by the Secretary General’s favoritism towards members of his own group, as well as his refusal to relinquish authority. As such, Kishida’s decision has been hailed by PLD lawmakers frustrated with the secretary general, but it predictably provoked Nikai. It also prompted Suga to act, with the prime minister attempting to crush Kishida’s momentum by proposing an executive reshuffle and letting Nikai go.

But Kishida’s strategy to seize the PLD presidency – making party reform its main selling point – collapsed after Suga announced he would not stand for re-election. Kishida then focused on securing the support of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the de facto leader of the largest faction in the PLD. In addition to members of his own faction, Kishida gained the support of a decent number of members of Abe’s group, known as the Hosoda faction. Kishida has also drawn support from lawmakers belonging to the Aso faction, even though Kono is a member.

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of his faction in Tokyo on Tuesday.  |  KYODO
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of his faction in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

Kishida may have become a more dynamic politician since last year, but questions remain about his management skills.

When he was chairman of the party’s political council last year, he dropped the ball by acting as a liaison between the prime minister’s office, the LDP and his junior coalition partner Komeito on cash distributions. emergency for people in the midst of the pandemic. The money was eventually returned to all residents, although it was initially offered in the form of targeted payments.

The blunder not only raised questions about its ability to coordinate with stakeholders, but also cast doubt on the Abe administration’s response to the pandemic.

Although Kishida heads a traditionally conciliatory faction, he referred to Taiwan as the “next big deal” and referred to revising the Self-Defense Forces Act to make it easier to send SDFs overseas on mission to foreigners. ‘evacuation. The former foreign minister also called for strengthening Japan’s missile defense system and intelligence gathering, as well as changing the national security strategy.

When he was Foreign Minister from 2012 to 2017, he coordinated US President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima – the Kishida constituency – as well as an agreement with South Korea on “comfort women” in wartime, a euphemism for those who suffered under Japan’s military mess. system before and during WWII. This pact was in limbo during the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

On the economy, Kishida has vowed to move away from neoliberal policies, which he says have brought growth but widened the wealth gap – something that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

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