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Fumio Kishida Confirmed as Japan's New Prime Minister, Elections Set for October 31

SCMP, October 5, 2021


Fumio Kishida, standing, is applauded after being elected as Japan’s new prime minister at the parliament's lower house on Monday.  


Fumio Kishida confirmed as Japan’s new prime minister, elections set for October 31

Kishida takes office after being formally elected as Japan’s new prime minister at a special session of parliament, succeeding Yoshihide Suga Kishida unveiled a cabinet line-up featuring allies of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, ensuring the influence of the latter’s conservative base

Japan ’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, exchanged fist bumps with lawmakers after he was formally elected by parliament on Monday, later announcing he would dissolve the body next week and call an election for October 31.

The surprise move, amid widespread expectations for a poll in November, appears to be aimed at exploiting a traditional honeymoon period accorded to new governments and a sharp drop in the number of coronavirus infections.

Outgoing prime minister Yoshihide Suga enjoyed support ratings of about 70 per cent soon after taking office about a year ago, but was pummelled by criticism of his handling of the pandemic, leading him to make way for a new face to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) through the election.

Kishida, 64, a former foreign minister with an image as a low-key consensus builder, beat out three contenders last week to lead the party and will become prime minister as it has a majority in parliament.

At his first news conference as prime minister on Monday, Kishida said he will dissolve the House of Representatives on October 14, the final day of an extraordinary Diet session, setting the stage for election campaigning to start on October 19.

“Kishida’s not wasting any time at all,” Tobias Harris, a senior fellow of the Centre for American Progress, said on Twitter.

“October 31 puts the opposition on its heels, takes advantage of a honeymoon in the polls, plus a better chance of lower case numbers.”

Harris added: “If he wins comfortably in the general election and can hold things together well enough to win the upper house elections next year, he’ll have up to three years without an election.”

Kishida’s poll decision was probably influenced by not wanting to repeat a mistake made by Suga, who did not call an election when his backing was still strong, analysts said.

“I believe he aims to hold the election before the general atmosphere (towards the new cabinet) turns cold,” said Zentaro Kamei, a senior fellow at the PHP Institute.

Japan's outgoing prime minister Yoshihide Suga leaves the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Monday after formally resigning. Photo: Kyodo

Kishida unveiled a cabinet line-up on Monday featuring allies of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, ensuring the influence of the latter’s conservative base.

Of the 20 posts, 13 are filled by people with no prior cabinet experience, in line with Kishida’s pledge to give chances to new people, but most heavyweight jobs will go to allies of Abe, or outgoing finance minister Taro Aso.

“He won the election with the support of Abe and Aso, so now it’s time for him to return the favour, it’s not the time for him to cut them off,” said political analyst Atsuo Ito, adding that Kishida tended to rate safety over bold action.

One of those closest to Abe is Amari, who has promised a big extra budget after the election. He told reporters on Monday it would need to include steps to ameliorate social divisions and Covid-19. “It’s not just Japan, but the divisions in society have increased during the coronavirus pandemic and many people are worried,” Amari said.

“So we need to empathise with the people and share their pain and our leader needs to show the path to unite society and to make it one again.”

Set to replace Aso is his low profile brother-in-law, Shunichi Suzuki, who is viewed as likely to continue the government’s policy of tempering growth spending with fiscal reform.

Other jobs destined for Abe allies are the trade and industry portfolio, to be held by current education minister Koichi Hagiuda, who is close to Abe.

Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is Abe’s brother, will retain his position, as will Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

There are three women in the line-up, one more than Suga had, but none holds a heavyweight portfolio.

US President 

Joe Biden  offered his congratulations on Monday to Kishida, saying the “historic partnership” between the two nations will continue.

“The US-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world, and I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Kishida to strengthen our cooperation in the months and years ahead,” Biden said in a statement.

Fumio Kishida (C), the new leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, attends a meeting of LDP executives on October 1. Photo: Kyodo

Here are brief profiles of the new prime minister and cabinet ministers:

Fumio Kishida, prime minister

A former foreign minister, Kishida has long spoken of his desire to become prime minister. He is seen as a soft-spoken, dovish consensus-builder, but lacks wide popularity.

As foreign minister, he oversaw the signing of a pact with South Korea on those forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels, and arranged the visit of former U. S. president Barack Obama to the nuclear bomb memorial city of Hiroshima.

Toshimitsu Motegi, foreign minister

One of the few cabinet ministers in prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration to keep his post, Motegi, 65, served as economy and trade minister before Abe named him to the foreign ministry in a 2019 cabinet reshuffle.

As trade minister, he tackled negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

Educated at Harvard and the University of Tokyo, the English-speaking Motegi was first elected to the lower house in 1993 from the then-opposition Japan New Party. He joined the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1995.

Nobuo Kishi, defence minister

The younger brother of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, 62-year-old Kishi was adopted by his childless uncle – the eldest son of ex-premier Nobusuke Kishi – soon after birth.

He worked in the United States, Australia, and Vietnam when employed by a trading firm before entering politics in 2004.

Kishi, ideologically aligned with his conservative brother Abe, has voiced support for constitutional revision as well as concerns over assertive neighbour China. He is also known to have friendly ties with Taiwan.

He graduated from Keio University in 1981 with a degree in economics.

Shunichi Suzuki, finance minister

A little-known but well-connected politician who has previously served as Olympics Minister, Suzuki is the brother-in-law of current finance minister Taro Aso and the son of former prime Minister Zenko Suzuki.

He is widely expected to avoid straying from the government line and continue its bid to balance growth spending with fiscal reform.

A graduate of Waseda University, he was first elected to parliament in 1990.

Koichi Hagiuda, economy and trade minister

Hagiuda, 58, is a close ally of former premier Abe.

As education minister since 2019, he served under both Abe and Suga. Previous government stints include serving as deputy chief cabinet secretary in Abe’s administration, as well as a role as his special adviser from 2013 to 2015.

First elected to the lower house of parliament in 2003, he had previously served as an assembly member of local governments in Tokyo, the capital.

Noriko Horiuchi, vaccine minister

Horiuchi, 55, will take her first ministerial post as one of three women in Kishida’s cabinet line-up. She was vice-minister for environment and state minister of the Cabinet Office under Suga.

Her foray into politics started when she was asked to take over the district of her father-in-law, and former trade minister, Mitsuo Horiuchi after he retired. She was first elected to the lower house in 2012.

Takayuki Kobayashi, economic security minister

A graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School and Tokyo University, 46-year-old Kobayashi started a career at the finance ministry that included a stint at Japan’s embassy in the United States, before switching to politics in 2010.

First elected to the lower house in 2012, he was parliamentary vice-minister of defence under Abe.

His appointment will reflect the clout of Akira Amari, the newly-appointed secretary general of the LDP and an Abe ally, who is an architect of Japan’s economic security policies aimed at protecting sensitive technology from China in areas such as supply chains and cybersecurity.

Daishiro Yamagiwa, economic revitalisation minister

One of 13 fresh faces in Kishida’s cabinet, Yamagiwa, 53, began his career in politics soon after graduating from Tokyo University with a degree in veterinary science.

He became a lower house lawmaker in 2003, and briefly served as vice trade minister in Abe’s government.

Yamagiwa is seen as close to Amari, joining his grouping before following him into Aso’s faction in 2017.

Fumio Kishida confirmed as Japan’s new prime minister, elections set for October 31 | South China Morning Post (


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