Japan’s ruling party elects new leader and candidate for next prime minister

Fumio Kishida, Wednesday (29/9), is one step closer to becoming Japan’s new prime minister after he was elected chairman of Japan’s long-ruling party.

Kishida, 64, a former foreign minister, defeated vaccination minister Taro Kono in the second round of the election for chairman of the conservative-leaning Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), held at a hotel in Tokyo. Kishida and Kono advanced to the second round of elections after neither candidate achieved a majority in the first round of elections, while Kishida was only one vote ahead of Kono with 256-255 votes.

Kono, an outspoken politician, is the leading candidate in public opinion polls, but Kishida has the backing of LDP legislators.

Kishida is likely to become Japan’s new prime minister when parliament convenes a plenary session on October 4 to formally elect a successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. He will only take office one month before he leads the party in the next election set for November 28.

Suga announced his retirement earlier this month due to public outrage over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly his insistence on hosting the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer as Japan was experiencing a growing spike in new infections.

Suga only took office a year after he replaced Shinzo Abe, who resigned citing health reasons.

Two women vying to replace Suga as LDP chairman, former interior minister Sanae Takaichi and left -leaning legislator Seiko Noda, did not win enough votes in the first round of voting. [uh/lt]

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