Japan’s Kishida Revamps Ruling Party as He Prepares for Election
(Bloomberg) -- Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida named new top ruling party executives, including a rival known for hawkish policies toward China, as he girds for a general election that a report said could come on Nov. 7.
The picks also led to the ouster of Toshihiro Nikai, 82, who had been the party No. 2 for a record of more than five years. The backroom power-broker known for his friendly ties with China has been criticized by the opposition as emblematic of the party’s aging leadership seen as out of touch with the average person.
Nikai was replaced as Liberal Democratic Party secretary general by former economy minister, Akira Amari, 72. Amari, who most recently served as the party’s tax chief, has also focused on the nation’s economic security, pushing for Japan to work with TSMC to bolster its flagging chip industry. He has expressed concern about the security risks of Chinese apps such as ByteDance’s TikTok.
Kishida, 64, was voted in as LDP leader Wednesday by party lawmakers and members, and is set to be appointed prime minister at a parliamentary session Monday. He is planning to dissolve parliament on Oct. 14, and likely to set Nov. 7 as the date for a national general election, Jiji Press reported, citing several unnamed LDP officials.
Kishida was not the public’s top choice for the job and now must try to win over voters frustrated with the government’s coronavirus policies. Due to the LDP’s powerful political machine, its ruling coalition is all but certain to retain a parliamentary majority, but any major gains by the opposition could hobble Kishida from the start, and increase the odds he joins a long list of short-serving premiers.
Finance Minister Taro Aso, 81, another senior member of the LDP, was set to be replaced as finance minister after holding that post longer than anyone else in the country’s modern era. When the new cabinet is announced Monday, Aso will be replaced by his brother-in-law Shunichi Suzuki, 68, a former Olympics minister, Kyodo News and other local media reported.
During his campaign Kishida said he would focus on the distribution of the fruits of economic growth, and accused China of wanting to spread its “authoritarian system around the world.”
For the post of policy chief, Kishida picked Sanae Takaichi, one of the two women who ran against him in the LDP leadership race. Takaichi, a former internal affairs minister, who performed better than expected in the party election, has called for U.S. intermediate-range missiles to be deployed in Japan, and held talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, both moves that anger China.
After being named to the post, Takaichi told reporters she wants to devote herself to rebuilding a damaged Japanese economy.
Both Takaichi and Amari are seen as close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving premier, and might indicate his influence in the selection of top personnel.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was set to stay in his post when the new cabinet is announced, Kyodo reported.
The post of chair of the party’s general council will go to Tatsuo Fukuda, 54, the son of former premier Yasuo Fukuda, known for deep connections with China.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.