Declining speed, the ruling party in Japan is also in search of a new president

The election, Wednesday, September 29, of the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, in power), called to succeed the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, who does not stand for re-election, concludes a campaign apparently more open than to the customary. She has, in fact, become somewhat detached from the traditional theater of factions – these groupings around strong men of the party – and is more feminine, since two of the four candidates are women.

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The party leadership made this choice on the basis of the observation of a loss of credibility of the PLD in public opinion, the support rate of the outgoing government no longer exceeding 30%. This level is worrying as the legislative elections in November approach, especially among the youngest elected officials and not affiliated with the factions.

This low rate of support reflects the dissatisfaction of the Japanese about the erratic management of the Covid-19 epidemic and the country’s economic situation, where poverty and precariousness are increasing due to the pandemic. It feeds on a feeling of disconnection of the leaders from the expectations of the population, for example with their obstinacy in organizing the Olympic Games in Tokyo, despite the opposition of the Japanese. “If the PLD had contented itself with letting the logic of the factions play out, it would have run the risk of losing many seats in the legislative elections”, says Etsushi Tanifuji of Waseda University.

Discussions with members

The campaign was punctuated by numerous debates. Four days of online discussions, between September 21 and 26, were held with a hundred members chosen at random. Broadcast on YouTube, they made it possible to tackle a wide range of subjects: pandemic, energy issues in a country in search of a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the Chinese threat, reform of the Constitution, the economy and social issues such as the place of women and LGBT people.

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The elected officials and members of the conservative party will have to vote while keeping in mind the polls which place Taro Kono, current minister of administrative reform and responsible for vaccination against Covid-19, favorite of the poll. Considered the “Best suited person” to be prime minister by 46% of those questioned, between September 23 and 25, by the economic daily Nihon keizai, the elected representative of the Kanagawa department, south of Tokyo, son and grandson of figures of the PLD, is known for his freedom of speech – which he uses without moderation on Twitter – and his command of English. Supported by Mr. Suga, he defends a rather liberal economic agenda, even if he advocates a society ” warm “, the maintenance of nuclear power and same-sex marriage.

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