Japan’s ruling party votes for new leader to replace Prime Minister Suga


FILE - In this file photo from September 17, 2021, the presidential candidates of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party pose before a joint press conference at the party's headquarters in Tokyo.  The ruling party in Japan will vote on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 to choose its new leader who is presumed to be the next prime minister with crucial tasks such as tackling an economy hit by a pandemic and securing a strong alliance with Washington amid risks crescents for the security of China and North Korea.  The suitors are, from left to right, Taro Kono, the cabinet minister in charge of vaccinations, Fumio Kishida, former minister of foreign affairs, Sanae Takaichi, former minister of home affairs, and Seiko Noda, former minister of home affairs.  (Kimimasa Mayama / Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE – In this file photo from September 17, 2021, the presidential candidates of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party pose before a joint press conference at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo. The ruling party in Japan will vote on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 to choose its new leader who is presumed to be the next prime minister with crucial tasks such as tackling an economy hit by a pandemic and securing a strong alliance with Washington amid risks crescents for the security of China and North Korea. The suitors are, from left to right, Taro Kono, the cabinet minister in charge of vaccinations, Fumio Kishida, former minister of foreign affairs, Sanae Takaichi, former minister of home affairs, and Seiko Noda, former minister of home affairs. (Kimimasa Mayama / Pool Photo via AP, File)

PA

The ruling party in Japan votes on Wednesday to choose its new leader, with the next presumed prime minister facing imminent and crucial tasks such as tackling a pandemic-stricken economy and securing a strong alliance with Washington amid a backdrop of increasing risks to regional security.

The new leader must also change the party’s authoritarian reputation, compounded by outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who angered the public at his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his insistence on hosting the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

The long-time ruling Tory Liberal Democrats are in desperate need of swiftly reversing public support ahead of the lower house election which will take place in two months, observers say.

Wednesday afternoon’s vote includes only parliamentarians and grassroots PLD members, and the results will be known in a few hours. Whoever wins the PLD elections will become Prime Minister because the party controls the parliament. The vote is expected there next Monday and the new prime minister would form a new cabinet later today.

Taro Kono, the Minister of Vaccinations, and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida are considered the main contenders, although exceptionally two women compete – ultra-conservative Sanae Takaichi and liberal-leaning Seiko Noda .

Takaichi has become a third competitive option after securing the crucial support of Suga’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose conservative vision and revisionist stance she supports.

If no one gets a majority in the first round of voting, which is likely due to the fact that the top three candidates appear to have close support, the winner will be determined by a second round mainly by lawmakers.

Kono, known as a maverick and reformer, ultimately supports the phase-out of nuclear power, while Kishida calls for growth and distribution under his “new capitalism,” claiming that the policy Abe’s economic benefit only benefited large companies. Takaichi, by far the most hawkish man who wants greater military capacity and greater spending, promises to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Noda advocates for women’s rights and diversity.

Overall, little change is expected in key diplomatic and security policies under the new ruler, said Yu Uchiyama, professor of political science at the University of Tokyo.

All of the candidates support strong security ties between Japan and the United States and partnerships with other like-minded democracies in Asia and Europe, in part to counter China’s growing influence.

Analysts believe Suga has lost his support due to party complacency and an increasingly authoritarian approach forged during Abe’s long leadership.

Wednesday’s vote is seen as a test of whether the party can come out of Abe’s shadow. His influence in government and party affairs has largely muzzled diverse opinions and shifted the party to the right, experts say.

The party’s vote could also end an era of unusual political stability and return Japan to the leadership of the “revolving door”.

“The concern is not about individuals but about the stability of Japanese politics,” Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on a conference call on Tuesday. “It is a question of whether or not we are entering a period of Japanese politics. Of instability and short-term prime minister,” he said. “It is very difficult to move the agenda forward. . ”

Kono is favored by the public but lacks strong support from the party’s conservative heavyweights, which could prepare him for a short-term prime ministerial post, while Kishida is seen as a choice that could lead the government longer .

Suga leaves just a year after taking office as a pinch hitter for Abe, who suddenly resigned due to health issues, ending his nearly eight years of leadership, the longest in constitutional history. from Japan.

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