Japan ex-FM Kishida wins ruling party vote, set to become next PM

Japan’s former foreign minister Fumio Kishida has won the governing party leadership election and is set to become the next prime minister, Daily Sabah reports. 

Kishida replaces outgoing party leader Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is stepping down after serving only one year since taking office last September. As new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Kishida is certain to be elected the next prime minister on Monday in parliament, where his party and coalition partner control the house.

At a Tokyo hotel, lawmakers will cast their votes one by one in a ballot box on stage when their names were called. Wednesday’s vote was seen as a test of whether the party can move out of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's shadow. His influence in government and party affairs has largely muzzled diverse views and shifted the party to the right, experts say.

A former banker from Hiroshima, Kishida enjoys only moderate public support and has a bland image. His victory could spell problems for the LDP in a general election due within weeks. Kishida defeated former defense and foreign minister Taro Kono, seen as an outspoken maverick, in the second round of a run-off vote. Two female contenders, Sanae Takaichi, 60, and Seiko Noda, 61, dropped out after the first round.

Kishida must call an election by Nov. 28 and faces the task of rebuilding an economy staggering from the COVID-19 pandemic, but his consensus style will help him consolidate power within the factious ruling party.

Kishida's victory is unlikely to trigger a huge shift in policies as Japan seeks to cope with an assertive China and revive an economy hit by the pandemic, with the soft-spoken lawmaker highlighting the need to focus on reducing income disparity.

He shares a broad consensus on the need to boost Japan's defenses and strengthen security ties with the United States and other partners, including the QUAD grouping of Japan, the United States, Australia and India, while preserving vital economic ties with China and holding regular summit meetings.

Specifically, Kishida wants to beef up Japan's coast guard and backs the passing of a resolution condemning China's treatment of members of the Uyghur minority. He wants to appoint a prime ministerial aide to monitor their human rights situation.


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