Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, his support ratings in tatters ahead of a general election, faced challenges on Thursday in a race to run the ruling Liberal Democratic Party from two former cabinet ministers.
The LDP president is virtually assured the premiership, because the party has a majority in parliament’s lower house.
Here are details about Suga and the other contenders, Fumio Kishida and Sanae Takaichi.
Yoshihide Suga, 72
A self-made politician and longtime lieutenant to predecessor Shinzo Abe, Suga came to power in September 2020 after Abe suddenly quit and major LDP factions coalesced around Suga’s candidacy.
He is finishing Abe’s term as party chief, which expires on Sept. 30.
Suga, unlike many other LDP leaders, does not hail from a political dynasty. His image was long more that of a backroom fixer than a frontline leader and his premiership has been plagued by what critics call poor communication skills.
Despite some popular policies such as lower mobile phone rates and a pledge to tackle global warming, Suga’s inability to contain Japan’s COVID-19 outbreak has slashed his ratings.
Fumio Kishida, 64
A former foreign minister, Kishida had been considered Abe’s likely heir, but the low-key lawmaker from Hiroshima typically ranks low in voter surveys.
He came in second in last year’s party leadership poll.
Kishida hails from one of the LDP’s more dovish factions and is seen as lukewarm about revising the pacifist constitution.
He has said that the Bank of Japan’s hyper-easy monetary policy “cannot go on forever.”
Sanae Takaichi, 60
A former internal affairs minister and Abe disciple, Takaichi has said she would introduce policies to fend off China’s technology threat to help strengthen the economy.
A member of the party’s most conservative wing, she often visits Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial memorial to Japan’s war dead, and has opposed allowing married couples to keep separate surnames.