TOKYO: The race to pick a new Japanese ruling party president, who will certainly succeed outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, went into full swing on Thursday as three candidates launched their campaigning activities.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 71, the continuity candidate for the Abe administration, is seen to have the advantage in the election, while Fumio Kishida, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, both 63, are seeking to play catch-up.
Suga met with senior officials of five party factions supporting his bid and nonaligned LDP lawmakers backing him at a hotel to discuss his strategy for the LDP leadership election, which will be held on Sept. 14.
The five factions are respectively led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, current LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, former Secretaries-General Hiroyuki Hosoda and Nobuteru Ishihara, and former LDP General Council Chairman Wataru Takeshita.
Suga is slated to appear in a television program of a commercial broadcaster in the afternoon to explain his plans to continue Abe’s policies.
He is also continuing his duties as chief cabinet secretary, holding a regular press conference in the morning, in which he said that his view opposing factional politics in his party has not changed at all. Suga said: “There are two sides to factions. If the negative side becomes too strong, there would be a need to watch out for it.”
Suga declined to comment on the possibility of the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, being dissolved for a snap election. “It’s an issue for the new cabinet,” he said.
Kishida held a press conference at his faction’s office, laying out his “Kishida Vision,” a set of policy measures he is determined to implement if he is elected prime minister.
In the vision, featuring the slogan of “from division to cooperation,” Kishida says that he aims to achieve constitutional revision with citizens by deepening their understanding. The vision also calls for establishing a new “data agency” to promote the digitization of administrative procedures.
“We must thoroughly advance discussions,” Kishida said of the LDP’s constitutional revision proposal, which includes adding a provision recognizing the Self-Defense Forces to war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
Ishiba met with members of his faction to discuss his election strategy after taking a dental checkup. He is also expected to explain his policies in a commercial TV program.
The Diet will be convened into a three-day extraordinary session on Sept. 16, and a new prime minister will be elected on the opening day. The new LDP president will certainly be elected prime minister thanks to the party’s comfortable majority in the powerful Lower House.