TOKYO (NWN) — Fumio Kishida was re-elected as Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday after his governing party won a major victory in key parliamentary elections.
Elected a month earlier by parliament, Kishida called a quick election in which his governing party won 261 seats in the 465-member lower house – the more powerful of Japan’s two-chambered legislature – to maintain a free hand in advancing legislation. Parliament enough.
The October 31 victory has increased his grip on power and is being seen as a voter’s mandate to tackle the pandemic-battered economy, virus measures and other challenges for his weeks-old government. Kishida said he saw the results as a sign that voters chose stability over change.
Later on Wednesday, he will form his second cabinet, keeping everyone except one of the ministers appointed when he took office on October 4, and will then outline his economic measures and other key policies at a news conference.
Kishida was chosen a month earlier by the Liberal Democrats as a safer, conservative alternative. He feared heavy electoral losses if the unpopular Yoshihide Suga remained in power. Suga resigned after only a year in office as his popularity plummeted over his insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics despite criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns of a virus escalation.
A better-than-expected election result could give Kishida’s government more power and time to act on campaign promises, including COVID-19 containment, economic revitalization and strengthening Japan’s defense capability.
Kishida’s hold on power could also be strengthened by a change in his cabinet.
Former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, a key policy expert from his party faction, will be the new foreign minister, while former foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi will shift to the governing party’s No.
Motegi voted for Kishida in the race for party leadership and will replace party veteran Akira Amari, who resigned from the post over his ineffective election result due to his previous bribery scandal.
Although many of Kishida’s ministers have been elected for the first time, key positions have gone to those in the influential and party wing, including those led by ultra-conservative former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Finance Minister Taro Aso.
Kishida promises to create a stronger cycle of growth and better economic distribution to increase income as part of his “new capitalism” economic policy.
Kishida’s task shortly after the election is to compile a major economic stimulus package worth nearly 30 trillion yen ($265 billion), including cash payments, to be announced next week. He also aims to pass an additional budget by the end of this year to finance the projects.
At a government meeting on Tuesday, Kishida renewed her pledge to create a positive cycle of growth-delivery by increasing investment and income.
Kishida is expected to outline his pandemic measures later this week ahead of another possible surge in cases, which could affect his support rating.
As a former foreign minister, Kishida will continue to prioritize the Japan-US security alliance and promote the vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” with other democracies, including Quad Dialogue members the US, Australia and India.
Kishida has emphasized a strong military importance amid concerns over China’s growing power and influence and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.
He has opposed changes to a law that requires married couples to adopt the same surname, which forces most women to drop their maiden name. The Liberal Democrats are widely seen as opposed to gender equality and diversity.