TOKYO (WNN) – Japan’s parliament on Monday elected former liberal-turned-liberal Baz Fumio Kishida as prime minister. He will face a pandemic-ravaged economy, security threats from China and North Korea, and the leadership of a political party whose popularity is rapidly waning ahead of a crucial national election.
With a majority of his party and his coalition partner in both houses, Kishida won by a comfortable margin against Yukio Edano, the head of Japan’s largest opposition, the Constitutional Democratic Party. After being sworn in at a ceremony at the royal palace, Kishida was to hold his first news conference as prime minister and chair his first cabinet meeting on Monday.
He replaces Yoshihide Suga, who resigned after only a year because he was backed by his government’s handling of the pandemic and pushing the Tokyo Olympics over the spread of the virus.
Japanese media reported that Kishida is expected to deliver a policy speech in parliament on Friday, but wants to dissolve the lower house to hold elections on October 31. Observers saw the opening date as a move to take advantage of his government’s fresh image to garner support.
Jun Azumi, senior lawmaker from the Constitutional Democratic Party, criticized his plan to dissolve Kishida’s house in just a week. “It’s like a delicate dish that forces customers to buy without giving them a chance to try samples.”
A former foreign minister, Kishida, 64, was known as a moderate, but more conservative on security and gender equality and other issues, apparently showing loyalty to influential conservatives in the Liberal Democratic Party. and to gain their support. He is firmly established in the conservative establishment, and his victory in last week’s vote to replace Suga as party leader was a choice for consistency and stability over change.
According to the lineup announced by the new Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Kishida ousted two of Suga’s 20 cabinet members and 13 would take over as ministers for the first time. Most of the positions went to powerful factions who voted for Kishida in the party elections. Suga’s government consists of only three of the two women.
Veteran woman legislator Seiko Noda, one of four candidates who ran for party leadership, became the minister in charge of the country’s declining birth rate and local revitalization. Another woman, Noriko Horiuchi, became vaccination minister, replacing runner-up Taro Kono in the race for party leadership.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, were retained to ensure the continuation of Japan’s diplomacy and security policies, as the country approaches China under a bilateral security agreement with Washington. wants to work together. Tensions are rising in the region, including Taiwan.
Kishida supports strong Japan-US security ties and partnerships with other like-minded democracies in Asia, Europe and the UK to counter China and nuclear-armed North Korea.
Kishida created a new cabinet position aimed at dealing with the economic dimensions of Japan’s national security, appointing Takayuki Kobayashi, 46, who is relatively new to parliament.
Finance Minister Taro Aso was transferred to a top post in the party and was replaced by his 68-year-old relative, Shunichi Suzuki.
Japan faces increasing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, which last month tested ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets in Japan. Kishida also faced deteriorating relations with fellow US ally South Korea over history issues, even after a 2015 agreement with Seoul to resolve a row over the issue of women being sexually abused by Japan’s military during World War II. have to face.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a letter to Kishida on Monday, congratulating him on his election as prime minister and offering to work together to improve relations. Moon’s office said in the letter, Moon said South Korea wanted to strengthen cooperation in the economy, culture, personnel exchanges and other areas.
An urgent task at home would be to turn around the declining popularity of his party, hurt by Suga’s perceived highness on the pandemic and other issues.
It must also ensure that Japan’s health care system, vaccination campaigns and other virus measures are prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the winter, while gradually normalizing social and economic activities.
Kishida said last week that his top priority would be the economy. His “new capitalism” is largely a continuation of Abe’s economic policies, but his aim is to increase income.
Voters welcomed new, slightly younger faces in the new government.
Karen Inaka, a 28-year-old designer, said she hopes the new government will take young people’s opinions into account and allow young politicians to play important roles.
At least, “Kishida looks more energetic than Suga,” said business owner Makoto Okubo.
Associated Press journalist Chisato Tanaka in Tokyo and Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.