On Friday, four experienced lawmakers competed for the position of leader in the campaign for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The LDP election will be held Sept. 29th. It is being contested in part by Fumio Kishida (ex-Foreign Minister), Sanae Takaichi (ex-Communications minister), Taro Kono (vaccination minister), and Seiko Noda (executive acting secretary general of the LDP).
As the LDP controls the House of Representatives (the powerful lower chamber of parliament), the winner of the race for the Japanese prime minister will be the winner. This is because Suga announced earlier this month that he would not seek to re-elect amid public dissatisfaction over his COVID-19 response.
Kono, 58 with his reform-oriented policies was seen as the front-runner among four candidates. Kono gained support from junior legislators with less secure seats and topped opinion polls about who should succeed Suga to the role of prime minister. Shigeru Ishiba (ex-defense minister) also supported Kono, who chose to withdraw from the race.
Kono spoke out during Friday’s policy speech, stating that Japan should be a country where people feel encouraged to work hard to achieve their goals, rather than settle for less. If I am elected leader of the country, I will take initiative in doing what I believe is right.
He pledged to invest in technology like 5G networks to allow more people to work remotely and to promote renewable energy during climate change.
Kishida (64), is expected to get support from veterans lawmakers who don’t like Kono’s reformist ideas. He will also be supported by his 47-member faction.
Kishida reiterated that he intends to reduce wealth inequality by increasing middle-class incomes. “There is a divide between rich and poor that has only grown due to COVID-19,” he stated, adding that now is the time for everyone in Japan to enjoy the benefits of economic growth.
Noda, 61 years old, made her bid on Thursday. It was difficult to predict who would be the winner due to her late entry. In her policy speech, she stated that half of her Cabinet would be made up of women if she was elected prime minister.
She stressed the need for a more inclusive society that includes sexual minorities and the elderly. Her focus would be on reducing Japan’s declining birth rate. Noda said she would also reopen the investigation into document tampering in the finance ministry in relation to a scandal involving Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister.
Takaichi (60) is a member of the LDP’s right leaning cohort and closely allied to Abe. She pledged to “defend Japan’s sovereignty and honour” and asked for an increase in the defense budget.
Takaichi as well as Noda aim to be Japan’s first woman prime minister.
After campaigning, LDP Diet members as well as rank-and-file members will vote on the election. The winner will be declared if they secure a majority of votes. A runoff will take place between the two top contenders if no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round.
Each of the 383 Diet members of the LDP will vote in the first round. Another 383 votes will then be decided based on the preferences and voting history of rank-and file members who are at minimum 20 years old, have Japanese citizenship, and have paid dues in principle in the past two years.
The votes will be cast by the LDP’s 47 prefectural chapters and the 383 Diet members.