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Calls for Kishida to step down erupt in ruling LDP

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Reuters)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Reuters)
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24 Jun 2024 10:06:19 GMT9
24 Jun 2024 10:06:19 GMT9

TOKYO: Calls for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to step down have erupted in his Liberal Democratic Party, ahead of the ruling party’s leadership election in September.

The calls apparently reflect a sense of crisis among party members over the next general election, due to harsh public criticism of a high-profile “slush fund” scandal involving LDP factions.

Hiroaki Saito, a former parliamentary vice minister of internal affairs and communications who belongs to the LDP faction led by LDP Vice President Taro Aso, lit the spark when he said on June 16 that Kishida’s responsibility as party leader should be widely discussed.

Kuniyoshi Azuma, a member of the faction led by LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi, followed Saito’s lead, saying on Saturday that Kishida should never mention re-election lightly, but should play a bridging role in the party.

Then came former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who suggested in an online program of Bungei Shunju monthly magazine on Sunday that the party should select a new leader in the upcoming leadership election, which he said will be “the best opportunity” to impress the public with the party’s renewal.

Suga claimed that many people are distrustful because Kishida has not taken responsibility for the slush fund scandal, and expressed concern that the party could lose power in the next general election. “There is an atmosphere that could lead to the ruling coalition losing its majority (in the House of Representatives),” he said.

Suga’s remarks seem to be taken seriously within the party. A mid-ranking party member said, “The leadership race has now begun.”

Suga avoided specifying who he will support in the LDP leadership election, but mentioned “promising” candidates including former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and former Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi. His favorite is expected to attract support from non-mainstream party members.

In 2021, Suga sought to win the previous LDP leadership election and continue his tenure. However, Kishida announced his candidacy ahead of other candidates and effectively forced Suga out of the race by proposing a term limit for LDP executives.

A party source said that Suga appears to be urging Kishida not to run for re-election, just as Kishida did with Suga last time. Some aides to Kishida are optimistic, however, doubting Suga’s ability to win broad support in the party.

But a member of the Kishida cabinet said that the movement against Kishida “will not weaken now.”

JIJI Press

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