New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday unveiled his government, mixing holdovers with newcomers, after lawmakers voted him the new leader of the world’s third-largest economy.
The soft-spoken scion of a Hiroshima political family, 64-year-old Kishida last week beat popular Japanese Minister of Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Taro Kono to win the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
He easily won yesterday’s vote in parliament approving him as prime minister thanks to the party’s commanding majority.
Kishida bowed to his fellow lawmakers after the vote, but did not immediately speak. Earlier, he told reporters he was ready for the top job.
“I think it will be a new start in its true sense,” he said.
“I want to take on challenges with a strong will and firm resolve to face the future,” he added.
Kishida is widely considered a safe pair of hands, who commands support from his own faction within the LDP and is not expected to veer significantly from the government’s existing policies.
His election came after former Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who submitted his resignation yesterday morning, announced he would not stand for the LDP leadership after just one year in office.
Shortly after the parliament vote, Kishida’s new Cabinet was announced, with more than a dozen fresh faces, but holdovers from the Suga government largely populating the most important portfolios.
Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi retained their jobs.
Motegi is a Harvard-educated political veteran who has taken the lead in negotiating key trade deals, while Kishi is the brother of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
The finance portfolio is to go to Shunichi Suzuki, who is replacing his own brother-in-law Taro Aso.
Suzuki is also a veteran politician and the son of a former prime minister. He has served in government before, holding both the Olympics minister and environment minister posts.
The Cabinet includes three women, among them Kishida’s one-time rival for the leadership, Seiko Noda, who was named minister in charge of addressing Japan’s declining birthrate.
The posts of vaccine minister and digital minister also went to women, with several members of the Cabinet appointed to their first ministerial post.
“The Kishida cabinet aims at balance with consideration given to major factions, young lawmakers, and neighbouring countries,” SMBC Nikko Securities chief economist Junichi Makino wrote in a note.
“It’s the kind of Cabinet formation that reflects Kishida, who works not to make enemies,” Makino said.
Kishida has also rewarded those who supported him in the leadership race, including rival Sanae Takaichi, who backed him in the second-round vote against Kono, and has been made LDP policy chief.
Meanwhile, Kono has been made party communications chairman — something of a step down from his recent role heading the vaccine rollout and past posts as defense and foreign affairs minister.
As prime minister, Kishida faces a raft of challenges, from the post-COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery to confronting military threats from North Korea and China.
He is also to lead the LDP in general elections, which local media reported would be held on Oct. 31, a few weeks earlier than expected.
The ruling party and its coalition are widely expected to retain power, but could be vulnerable to losing some seats, with the public unhappy about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suga’s government saw its approval ratings slump as it struggled to tackle waves of infection, including a record virus spike over the summer while the Olympics were being held in Tokyo.
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