Japan’s parliament elected Fumio Kirshida, a former moderate who became hawk, to be its prime minister on Monday. Fumio Kishida will face an economy that is suffering from the pandemic and security threats from China, North Korea, and the leadership of a party whose popularity is declining ahead of a rapidly approaching crucial national election.
Kishida was able to defeat Yukio Edano of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, with his party and its coalition partner having a majority in both house. Kishida, who was sworn into office at the royal palace ceremony, was scheduled to host his first news conference and preside over his first Cabinet meeting Monday.
Yoshihide Sug, who was resigned after just one year as his support plummeted over his handling of the pandemic as well as insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics while the virus spread, was replaced by him.
According to Japanese media, Kishida will make a policy speech to parliament on Friday. However, he is seeking to dissolve the lower house in order to hold elections on October 31. The move is being seen by observers as an attempt to capitalize on the government’s new image and rally support.
Jun Azumi (a senior Constitutional Democratic Party lawmaker) criticized Kishida’s plan to disintegrate the house in a matter of days. It’s like a delicatessen where customers are forced to buy, even though they have the chance to taste it.
Former foreign minister, Kishida (64), was once considered moderate. However, he became more conservative on security and more conservative regarding gender equality in order to win the support of influential conservatives from the Liberal Democratic Party. He is deeply rooted in the conservative establishment. His victory last week in the vote to replace Suga was a choice for stability and continuity over change.
According to Hirokazu Matsuno, the new Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Mattsuno’s lineup, Kishida will replace all but two of Suga’s 20 Cabinet members. 13 will be holding ministerial positions for the first-time. The majority of the posts were given to the powerful parties that voted for Kishida during the party election. Three women are now included in the government of Suga, compared to two.
Seiko Noda was a veteran female lawmaker and one of four candidates for the party leadership. She became the minister responsible for the country’s declining birthrates and local revitalization. Noriko Horiuchi was elected the vaccinations minister to replace Taro Kono who finished second in the party leadership race.
Toshimitsu Mtegi, the Foreign Minister, and Nobuo Kishi (the younger brother of Shinzo Abe), were retained. This ensured continuity in Japan’s diplomatic and security policy as Japan seeks to work closely with Washington under the bilateral Security Pact.
Kishida supports strengthening Japan-U.S. security relations and partnerships with other likeminded democracies across Asia, Europe, and Britain in part to counter China’s nuclear-armed North Korea.
Kishida created a new Cabinet position to address the economic aspects of Japan’s national defense. He appointed Takayuki Kobayashi (46 years old), who is relatively new in parliament.
Taro Aso, Finance Minister, was promoted to the top post in the party and replaced by Shunichi Suzuki Suzuki (68).
Japan is facing increasing nuclear and missile threats by North Korea. The North Koreans tested ballistic missiles last month that could hit Japanese targets. Kishida is also facing worsening relations with South Korea, a U.S. ally. This comes despite a 2015 agreement with Seoul to end a dispute over the treatment of Japanese women during World War II.
Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, sent Monday a letter to Kishida congratulating him on his election as prime minister. He also offered to work with him to improve relations. Moon stated that South Korea wanted to improve cooperation in the areas of economy, culture, and personnel exchanges. Moon’s office confirmed this.
His homecoming task will be to turn around the party’s declining popularity that was hurt by Suga’s apparent high-handedness regarding the pandemic.
He will also need to ensure Japan’s healthcare systems, vaccination campaign, and other virus measures are prepared for a possible resurgence in COVID-19 during winter while slowly normalizing economic and social activity.
Last week, Kishida stated that the economy would be his number one priority. While his “new capitalism” is largely a continuation Abe’s economic policies, he wants to increase incomes.
Voters welcomed the new government’s younger and more youthful faces.
Karen Einaka, a 28-year old designer, said that she hopes the new government will take into account younger people’s opinions and allow younger politicians to assume important roles.
Makoto Okubo, a business owner, said that at least “Kishida seems more energetic than Suga”.