Japanese Minister of Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Taro Kono’s chances of becoming the next leader of the ruling party, and subsequently prime minister, were yesterday boosted when a rival’s party faction splintered.
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is to hold a leadership election on Sept. 29, after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Friday last week that he was stepping down. The winner of the vote is all but assured to be Japan’s next prime minister.
So far, only former Japanese minister of foreign affairs Fumio Kishida has announced his candidacy, but Kono and former Japanese minister of internal affairs and communications Sanae Takaichi have expressed an ambition to run for the post in the past few weeks.
Kono is considering holding a news conference by the end of the week to announce his candidacy, domestic media reported.
Following a meeting of former Japanese minister of defense Shigeru Ishiba’s LDP party faction yesterday, Japanese lawmaker Mamoru Fukuyama told reporters that members were divided about whether to support Ishiba in a leadership vote or back Kono, who is from another faction.
Ishiba last week said that he was ready to serve as prime minister if the conditions were right.
At the faction meeting, he did not say he would not run in the election, Fukuyama said.
Kono and Ishiba regularly come in high on lists of lawmakers that voters favor as prime minister.
Grassroots LDP members are to vote in the leadership election along with the party’s members of parliament, and whoever wins will lead the party to the lower house election that must be held by Nov. 28, making public appeal an important factor in choosing the new leader.
On the economic policy front, Kishida has called for a package of more than ￥30 trillion (US$272.8 billion) that would be funded by issuing bonds to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, Diamond magazine reported.
“We must support the economy with large-scale monetary easing and fiscal stimulus to protect people’s lives from the pandemic,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with the magazine.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 share average rallied as much as 1.3 percent, at one point moving past the psychological barrier of 30,000 for the first time since April, on hopes that the LDP would compile additional economic stimulus.
However, Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso signaled a cautious stance on Kishida’s call for big stimulus.
“It would not be easy to agree on such talk without taking the actual situation into account. There’s no way to comment without knowing on what the ￥30 trillion would be spent on,” Aso told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
He asked how the spending would be used, as public works worth ￥20 trillion remained unspent and Japanese firms hoarded a record internal reserves, while the private sector holds massive financial assets.
Takaichi, who has the backing of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, has called for freezing a target for balancing the budget until the Bank of Japan’s 2 percent inflation target is met.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
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FREE-FOR-ALL CONTEST: Taro Kono’s popular support means that he ‘probably has the edge, but if he has a lead, it’s a very vulnerable one,’ an Asia expert said The campaign to become Japan’s next prime minister began yesterday, with four candidates vying for leadership of the ruling party in an unusually close race. In televised speeches, the candidates set out their priorities, from boosting Japan’s digital prowess to addressing the falling birthrate. Among them are two women hoping to lead a nation that has never had a female prime minister, although both are considered long shots. The race follows Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s shock announcement that he would not run for head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Whoever the party picks in a Sept. 29 vote is to contest
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