Former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida won the ruling party leadership race on Wednesday, making him Japan’s new prime minister.
Its first challenges will be to revive an economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and to strengthen the alliance with the United States in order to counter the growing security risk in the region. Japan faces the growing influence of China as well as the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Fumio Kishida succeeds Yoshihide Suga, who resigned from his post just one year after taking office last September.
As the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Fumio Kishida is expected to be officially elected Prime Minister by Members of Parliament next Monday. His party controls the Japanese Parliament with the support of a coalition.
To win the party leadership race, Fumio Kishida defeated popular Immunization Minister Taro Kono in the second ballot. He first won the first round, which had four candidates, by one vote.
Stability and reputation
It appears that a majority of party heavyweights sided with Mr Kishida, who embodied stability, at the expense of Mr Kono, a more marginal politician who embodied change.
In addition to the challenges of governance of the country, the new party leader will have the task of changing the reputation of arrogance of the political formation, which was reinforced under his predecessor. He raised the anger of the population for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic and for his insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics despite the health crisis.
The conservative Liberal Democratic Party has been in power in Japan for a long time, but it must quickly raise the bar as the lower house elections approach in two months. Its support for voting intentions is in free fall.
Fumio Kishida advocates growth and the redistribution of wealth under a model that he describes as “new capitalism”. According to him, the economy only benefited big companies during the reign of Shinzo Abe, the longest serving prime minister in the country’s history.
Overall, no major changes are expected in the country’s main diplomacy or security policies, according to Yu Uchiyama, professor of political science at the University of Tokyo.