Fumio Kishida won the governing party’s leadership election on Wednesday, must revive pandemic-hit economy, ensure strong alliance with Washington to counter growing regional security risks
Score one more for the men in blue suits. Former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida won the governing party’s leadership election on Wednesday, beating out two women who hoped to lead the country, and is set to become the next prime minister, facing the tasks of reviving a pandemic-hit economy and ensuring a strong alliance with Washington to counter growing regional security risks, the Associated Press reports.
Kishida replaces outgoing party leader Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is stepping down after serving only one year.
As new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida is certain to be elected the next prime minister on Monday in parliament, where his party and its coalition partner control both houses.
In his victory speech, Kishida vowed to tackle “national crises” including COVID-19, the pandemic-battered economy and the declining population and birthrate. He said he would pursue “important issues related to Japan’s future” through a vision of “a free and open Indo-Pacific” that counters China’s assertiveness in the region.
Kishida defeated popular vaccinations minister Taro Kono in a runoff after finishing only one vote ahead of him in the first round, in which none of the four candidates, including two women, was able to win a majority.
In a landslide 257-170 victory in the second round, Kishida received support from party heavyweights who apparently chose stability over change advocated by Kono, who is known as something of a maverick and a reformist.
Kishida is under pressure to change the party’s high-handed reputation, worsened by Suga, who angered the public over his handling of the pandemic and insistence on holding the Summer Olympics in Tokyo despite surging infections.
The long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party desperately needs to quickly turn around plunging public support ahead of lower house elections coming within two months.
Kishida said he heard many voters in the past year complaining that they were being ignored. “I felt our democracy is in a crisis,” he said in his speech. “I, Fumio Kishida, have a special skill of listening to people. I am determined to make an effort toward making a more open LDP and a bright future for Japan together with you all.”
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