Former Japanese foreign minister Kishida to become new prime minister

Fumio Kishida

Former Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida is set to become the country’s new prime minister after he won Wednesday’s leadership election for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

He is expected to succeed Yoshihide Suga as Japan’s premier on Monday, based on the LDP majority in the lower house of parliament. The 64-year-old beat Taro Kono, the minister for the coronavirus vaccination campaign, for the top party job in a run-off vote.

Suga threw in the towel as Japan’s leader after just one year in power after garnering much criticism for his handling of the coronavirus crisis and unpopular decision to go ahead with the Olympics despite the pandemic.

Kishida will have to work quickly to improve the party’s tarnished image among Japan’s public, with the election for parliament’s lower house scheduled for November.

Kishida, who stems from the city of Hiroshima and comes from a political dynasty, has previously been doveish on foreign policy issues. He has struck a more hawkish tone recently however, in a possible effort to secure the approval of conservatives around influential ex-premier Shinzo Abe.

Kishida wants to bolster Japan’s defence and expand the military budget. Like his predecessors, he supports Japan’s close security alliance with the United States and wants to form a counterweight to China’s growing might, together with democratic partners in Europe and Asia.

His economic policy centres on a “new capitalism” to reduce the gap between rich and poor, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kishida is close to the Nippon Kaigi, a strong nationalist lobby group, favours nuclear power and wants to promote clean energy technologies to create new growth areas. He wants to boost the Covid-ravaged economy with a large stimulus package.

Ultimately, Abe’s foreign and economic policy legacy is stake after his many years in power. The right-wing conservative still has great influence in the party and had supported Takaichi.

It remains to be seen whether Kishida can emerge from Abe’s shadow. The former premier was driven by a sentimental strain of nationalism, seeking to restore Japan’s pride. He had a close relationship to former US president Donald Trump and moved his party and country to the right.

Before it came to the run-off, there had been two other candidates for the top job: The staunchly national-conservative former interior minister Sanae Takaichi and the more liberal former minister for gender equality, Seiko Noda.

While the party base favoured “vaccination tsar” Kono, Kishida was seen to be ahead among LDP lawmakers.

Source: GNA

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