Japan LDP launches PM race

Source: AFP Published: 2020/9/8 17:03:46

Suga expected to win office with support of party factions

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party leadership candidates Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (center), former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba (right), and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida pose for photographs during a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Japan's ruling party on Tuesday kicked off the race to pick Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's successor, with his powerful right-hand man Yoshihide Suga commanding an all-but-insurmountable lead.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, the 71-year-old son of a strawberry farmer, has already secured the support of major factions in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ahead of its leadership vote on Monday.

But he isn't running unchallenged, with a popular former defence minister and the party's policy chief standing against him.

With the LDP commanding a solid legislative majority, the race's winner is certain to win a parliamentary vote on September 16 and be named the country's next prime minister.

The LDP race began after Abe abruptly announced in late August that he would resign for health reasons. 

There is now speculation that the new leader may also call a snap election to shore up public support.

On Tuesday morning, representatives for Suga and his rivals - former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and party policy chief Fumio Kishida - formally registered their candidacies.

At a joint event for the candidates, Suga said he had decided to run to help avoid a "political vacuum" after Abe's departure, and that he would prioritize coronavirus containment while rebuilding an economy now in recession.

Ishiba meanwhile pledged a "great reset," and said he would "pour my whole body and soul into regional revitalization."

Kishida said he too would focus on balancing infection measures with kickstarting the economy, and vowed to build a capable team.



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