Japan’s ruling party to pick next PM likely through runoff vote
Written by tokyoclub on September 29, 2021
BREAKING NEWS: Japan ruling party vote likely to be runoff between Kono, Kishida
TOKYO – Japan’s ruling party will pick the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as party president and hence the country’s next leader Wednesday, with polls taken among voters pointing to the likelihood of a runoff between the top two contenders.
None of the four candidates is likely to win in the first round by securing a majority of the total 764 votes, including vaccination minister Taro Kono, the favorite pick among Liberal Democratic Party rank-and-file members, and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is most popular among Diet members, according to Kyodo News surveys.
The four candidates running in the presidential election of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party pose after attending a debate sponsored by video-sharing service Niconico in Tokyo on Sept. 18, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Former communications minister Sanae Takaichi closely trails the two, while the LDP’s executive acting secretary general Seiko Noda, who declared her candidacy a day before campaigning began on Sept. 17, has been unable to broaden her support base, prompting her to admit days ahead of the election that the winner is going to be “anyone but me.”
Polling closed Tuesday for dues-paying nonparliamentarian members and the local chapters in the country’s 47 prefectures will unveil the results later Wednesday. LDP lawmakers will begin voting at 1 p.m.
The election comes after Suga announced earlier this month that he is stepping down. His successor will be tasked with leading the ruling party, 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.
Since the LDP-led coalition holds a majority in both chambers of parliament, whoever is elected the party president is almost certain to be elected prime minister when an extraordinary Diet session starts Monday.
In the first round of voting, LDP parliamentarians cast 382 votes and another 382 votes are allotted to rank-and-file members. If no one secures a majority, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders.
In runoff voting, the lawmakers will cast the same number of votes, while the rank-and-file members’ votes will be reduced to one for each of the LDP’s 47 prefectural chapters, meaning the choices of LDP Diet members will significantly influence the outcome.
Unlike past party elections, faction politics is not playing a decisive role in picking the next leader, at least in the first round, allowing members to make their own choices. Some factions have already decided on who to vote for in the potential runoff.
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 digitalization but was seen by some as having backed away from his previous stance of breaking free from nuclear power.
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. He 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, backed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and known for regularly visiting Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where convicted war criminals and war dead are enshrined, is supported by hawkish nationalists within the LDP. She has 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, has been struggling to attract support within the party beyond 20 lawmakers, who gave her the prerequisite endorsement needed to run in the election. She has placed her priority on care for the vulnerable such as children and people with disabilities.