Conservative Fumio Kishida becomes Prime Minister of Japan

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After his election as president of the ruling party on Wednesday, Fumio Kishida, 64, was elected prime minister on Monday by the Japanese parliament.

A new Prime Minister in Japan. Fumio Kishida, 64, was elected Monday, October 4, by Parliament and was to announce his government team in the wake, after his election last Wednesday as president of the ruling party.

Fumio Kishida won 311 votes in the lower house of the Diet, against 124 votes for the main opposition leader, Yukio Edano. The upper house also widely voted for him with 141 votes, against 65 for Yukio Edano.

The outgoing government led by Yoshihide Suga, 72, resigned en bloc in the morning. Yoshihide Suga is stepping down after barely a year in office, overcome by his unpopularity due to his handling of the health crisis and the maintenance of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games at all costs this summer.

Fumio Kishida will have a lot to do to accelerate Japan’s economic recovery while avoiding a resurgence of the health crisis, and face a tense regional geopolitical context, with the North Korean threat and China’s ambitions.

Legislation in the crosshairs

Having achieved consensus within the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, conservative right), this former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2012-2017), whose listening skills are praised, will have to lead his formation to legislative elections to be held in November at the latest.

Even if it risks losing seats, the PLD is however almost certain to win them again in the face of fragmented opposition. The election to the lower house of Parliament could be held on October 31, Japanese media reported on Monday, a little earlier than expected. Fumio Kishida would thus risk missing the G20 summit in Rome, scheduled for October 30 and 31.

The composition of the new government has already leaked to the local press. It reveals a great continuity with the outgoing team and the influence of two major factions of the PLD: that led by ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 67, and that of the outgoing Minister of Finance, Taro Aso, 81.

The support of parliamentarians from these two factions was decisive for Fumio Kishida’s clear victory in the second round of the LDP’s internal election last week.

The next finance minister, Shunichi Suzuki, 68, is Taro Aso’s brother-in-law and is part of his faction within the PLD. This former Minister of the Environment and the Olympic Games is also the son of a Prime Minister, Zenko Suzuki, in office in the early 1980s.

The current head of Japanese diplomacy, Toshimitsu Motegi, 65, is expected to keep his post, as is Nobuo Kishi at Defense. 62-year-old Nobuo Kishi is Shinzo Abe’s younger brother.

A unifying government

Some new faces should also make their appearance in a ministerial post. And a new portfolio (Economic Security) must be created, reflecting the growing concerns of Japanese officials about Chinese technological competition.

Only three women are expected to enter government. Among them, Seiko Noda, 61, came fourth and last in the internal election of the PLD. She will be responsible for fighting against low birth rates and gender inequalities, her favorite themes.

“Fumio Kishida’s government aims for a balance” between the major factions and generations within the PLD. This “reflects Fumio Kishida’s desire not to make enemies,” Junichi Makino, economist at SBMC Nikko Securities, commented in a note.

Fumio Kishida also replaced the management team of the PLD at the end of last week. The party’s new number two is Akira Amari, 72, a former economy minister who is very suspicious of China.

The ultra-nationalist Sanae Takaichi, 60, who came third in the internal election of the PLD and close to Shinzo Abe, has been appointed head of the party’s strategy.

As for the unfortunate finalist of this internal ballot, Taro Kono, 58, who was more popular than Fumio Kishida with the base of the PLD and the general public, he was given the responsibility of the party’s communication, a post minor.

With AFP

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