On 17 September, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced a leadership election to coincide with the term expiration of current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Candidate nominations were accepted from 10am, and four have been received, namely Taro Kono, Minister for Administrative Reform (58), Fumio Kishida, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan (64), Sanae Takaichi, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications (60), and Seiko Noda, Acting Secretary-General (61).
There are a total of 766 votes in the leadership election, including 383 diet members and 383 votes made by the party’s members and affiliates. The new leader will be declared on 29 September after the ballots have been tallied.
The LDP have commented that they expect the four candidates to spend the next 12 days on policy debates for topics such as Japan’s national image considering the post-COVID environment, economic recovery measures, diplomacy and security, and to make strong demonstrations for the future of the LDP and Japan in the face of the challenges posed by the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In surveys conducted by the media, Kono often comes up as the most popular candidate although internet polls tell a different story. A poll held by a famous entertainer with 3.2 million followers on Twitter garnered 330,000 responses and showed Takaichi as the most popular at 60%, Kono at 28%, Kishida at 8% and Noda at 4%.
Kono has pushed reform of the party to the front, calling for “Change the LDP and change politics”. He stated, “Companies have profited but they have not contributed to a rise in wages,” proposing a revision to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s famous “Abenomics” policies.
Kishida is demanding a “shift away from neo-liberalism”. He has proposed the “Reiwa Income Doubling Plan” and his intention is to tackle the disparities widened by Abenomics through redistribution to the middle classes.
Takaichi has gained the support of Abe and is very popular with the public. She has emphasized a conservative ideological position, a hardline stance toward China and “Sanaenomics”, inherited from Abenomics, with a focus on monetary easing, fiscal mobilization and growth investment.
Noda intends to focus on women’s policies with measures to tackle a declining birthrate and calls for a diverse society in which women, the elderly, those with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals can play active roles. She has also stated that she would expand renewable energy supplies with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality.
The House of Representatives is preparing for a general election in October or November upon expiration of its term and the ruling LDP is looking for a popular leader to fight that election.