TOKYO – (AP) – The official election campaign began on Friday for the next leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan. The winner will almost certainly become the world’s No.3 economy leader, defining key political, military and security roles in the region.
Two men and, unusual for Japan, two women are vying for the September 29 ballot to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Their policies focus on anti-coronavirus measures, an economy hampered by the pandemic, and how to handle, from Tokyo’s perspective, China’s increasingly threatening role in regional affairs.
The Associated Press explains who these politicians are, their policies, and the importance of elections to Japan and Asia.
– TARO KONO: Considered a maverick in Japan’s largely conservative political culture, he is the minister in charge of vaccinations and an election favorite. Kono, 58, is fluent in English and is a graduate of Georgetown University. He is an avid Twitter user, with many young fans, a rarity in a Japanese political world dominated by older men. Liberal on social issues, Kono supports same-sex marriage and advances the role of women. After serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Kono said he would work with countries that share democratic values to counter China’s growing assertion in regional seas. He highlighted his accomplishments in speeding up delayed vaccinations in Japan, portraying himself as a leader who gets things done by breaking down bureaucratic barriers when necessary. Suga announced his support for Kono, praising his success in ramping up vaccinations. He is supported by other popular reformists and is seen as a rival to supporters of former conservative prime minister Shinzo Abe.
FUMIO KISHIDA: The 64-year-old former foreign minister was once considered an undecided moderate. Lately, however, he has become a security and diplomatic hawk as he seeks support from influential conservatives like Abe. Kishida calls for a further increase in Japan’s defense capacity and budget and pledges to stand up to China in the tensions in the Taiwan Strait and Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. Economically, Kishida calls for a “new capitalism” of growth and distribution to narrow the income gap between the rich and the poor that has been made worse by the pandemic. It is committed to promoting clean energy technologies to transform measures to combat climate change into growth and proposes a solid economic recovery plan.
SEIKO NODA: Long hoping to become Japan’s first female ruler, she first entered the race at the age of 61. She was Minister of Posts, Home Affairs and Gender Equality. Noda, who has long sought to tackle the country’s falling birth rates, had her first child at age 50 after fertility treatment. The rapid decline in Japan’s population poses a serious national security risk, as Japan will not have enough troops or police in the decades to come, she said. She supports same-sex marriage and the acceptance of sexual diversity, as well as a legal change to allow separate surnames for married couples, and campaigned for a quota system to increase the number of female legislators. . Noda, a late entry to the race, said she was running for the weak and “to achieve diversity” – a goal other candidates failed to stress.
SANAE TAKAICHI: Ultra-conservative former home minister Takaichi, 60, shares Abe’s revisionist views on Japan’s war atrocities and his hawkish stance on security. She regularly visits the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines war criminals among the war dead and is seen by China and the Koreas as proof of Japan’s lack of remorse. Its security policies include the development of a preemptive strike capability to counter threats from China and North Korea. Takaichi introduced a large government spending “Sanaenomics” policy similar to Abe’s signature economic policy. A drummer in a heavy metal band and motorcycle rider as a student, she favors traditional gender roles and a paternalistic family system and strongly supports the male succession of the Imperial family.
WHAT THE ELECTION MEANS FOR JAPAN
The sudden resignation of Suga, who was Abe’s chief cabinet secretary for nearly eight years before becoming prime minister last year, signals the possible end of an era that has seen unusual political stability, even in Africa. amidst corruption scandals and strained ties with China and the Koreas.
The upcoming elections will determine whether the ruling party in Japan can emerge from Abe’s shadow, said Masato Kamikubo, professor of political science at Ritsumeikan University. Few changes, however, are expected in Japan’s diplomatic and security policies regardless of who becomes prime minister, he said.
Support ratings for Suga and his government have plunged due to his handling of the virus and his insistence on hosting the Olympics during the pandemic. The ruling PLD hopes that a new face in the leadership can rally public support ahead of the lower house elections due in late November, said Tetsuo Suzuki, political journalist and commentator. But, with Suga’s term ending after just a year, there are fears that short-lived prime ministers will return to Japan’s “revolving door”.
HOW ELECTIONS WORK
The campaign is reserved for Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers in parliament and grassroots members, not the general public.
The winner will likely become the next prime minister in a parliamentary vote, expected in early October, as the PLD and its coalition partner hold a majority in both chambers.
If no one gets a majority in the September 29 ballot, a winner will be determined in a run-off, which will likely be influenced by a power struggle between the party’s heavyweights which political observers believe could work in favor. from Kishida.
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