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Japan ruling party leader vote goes to runoff between Kishida, Kono

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan’s ruling party leadership election went to a runoff between former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and vaccination minister Taro Kono on Wednesday after none of the four candidates won a majority in the first round, with the winner set to become Japan’s next prime minister.

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida responds to applause after being elected as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s president on September 29, 2021, in Tokyo. --Photo Kyodo

Kishida, the most popular among Diet members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party , won 256 votes, while Kono, the favorite among rank-and-file LDP members, secured 255 votes.
Two female candidates, Sanae Takaichi, a former communications minister, and Seiko Noda, the LDP executive acting secretary general, followed with 188 and 63 votes, respectively.
The focus is now on who Takaichi and Noda voters will switch their votes to in the runoff to choose the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Since the LDP-led coalition holds a majority in both chambers of parliament, whoever is elected the party president is set to be named elected prime minister when an extraordinary Diet session starts Monday.
While some party factions have already decided on who to vote for in the runoff, factional alliances did not play a decisive role in the first round as most factions allowed members to make their own choices.
The election came after Suga announced earlier this month that he is stepping down. His successor will be tasked with leading the ruling party, which is struggling to shore up an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also assuring the public they have leadership skills and accountability, qualities judged to be lacking in Suga.
Kono, seen as a reformist who has frequently topped media opinion polls on who is most fit to be prime minister, has attracted support from relatively young LDP lawmakers and rank-and-file party members.
He has promised to reform Japan’s pension system and promote digitalisation but was seen by some as having backed away from his previous stance of breaking free from nuclear power generation.
Kishida, who heads the LDP’s liberal-leaning faction, has the backing of many veteran lawmakers and is making his second attempt at becoming party chief after being defeated by Suga last year.
Kishida has pledged to shift from the neoliberal policies of previous administrations and make sure ordinary people can enjoy the benefits of growth, but some view him as lacking broader public appeal.
Takaichi was backed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in campaigning and is known for regularly visiting Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo where convicted war criminals and war dead are enshrined. She had the support of hawkish nationalists within the LDP.
She named her policy mix “Sanaenomics,” focusing on bold monetary easing and investment in crisis management and growth areas. Noda, who is known as a liberal in the conservative party, struggled to attract support within the party beyond the 20 lawmakers who gave her the prerequisite endorsement needed to run in the election.
She placed her priority on care for the vulnerable such as children and people with disabilities.

(Latest Update September 30, 2021)

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