Fumio Kishida takes office as Japan’s new prime minister

Fumio Kishida takes office as Japan's new prime minister
Kishida, 64, who was elected leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last week, has been officially confirmed as the country’s 100th prime minister after a parliamentary vote – all but not being promoted due to the LDP’s majority in the House of Representatives. .
After the vote, Kishida announced his new government filled with allies of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Of the 20 members, 13 have no previous cabinet experience, three are women and the average age is 61.
Kishida, a moderate liberal seen as a hand for stabilization, is Japan grappling with a high number of Covid-19 infections, a stagnant economy, a rapidly aging population and rising tensions with China.
Kishida served as the country’s foreign minister under Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, from 2012 to 2017. He succeeds outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced earlier this month that he would not run for president in his party’s presidential election after a turbulent period. It was marked by waning public support as he struggled to contain the coronavirus.

Analysts say Kishida is seen as a consensus builder and firm choice for stability. But the political veteran wasn’t the popular choice – he had little public support and struggled to shake off his image as a boring bureaucrat.

His first big test will be the upcoming general election, where he will be the face of a party that has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic under Suga.

said Keith Henry, president of Asia Strategy, a political risk and business advisory firm.

What do you expect from the Kishida government?

Kishida promised “new capitalism” that would include narrowing the income gap and boosting consumer spending. He argued that economic policies he called “abenomics” – better known as “abenomics” – had failed to “switch” from the rich to the poor. He also proposed a massive “tens of trillions” yen recovery package to lead the Japanese economy out of the pandemic-induced recession.

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“There is a deep feeling among the Japanese people that this gap between the haves and the have-nots, and that the gap between wealth, wages, and opportunity is widening,” Henry said.

Kishida will also deal with the response to the coronavirus in the country. Japan has vaccinated 60% of its population against Covid-19 and last week lifted a state of emergency amid a drop in infections. Social and commercial restrictions are gradually being relaxed, and entry restrictions into Japan are being eased for some visitors. But there are concerns that the virus could re-emerge during the winter months.
In foreign policy, Kishida pledged to “realize a free and open Indo-Pacific”. His predecessor wished to attend the first in-person meeting of the Quartet’s Security Dialogue, known as the Quartet, an informal strategic forum for the United States, Australia, Japan and India, in the United States last month.
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Kishida is expected to support a strong alliance with the United States and other allies, which is essential, and the challenge will be to balance Japan’s deep economic ties with China and its concerns about Beijing’s growing military influence in the region. Kishida also faces an increasingly aggressive North Korea.

The new prime minister said he also wants to take action against the country’s low birth rate, and believes nuclear power should be seen as a clean energy option.

Analysts question whether Kishida will be a permanent leader, or whether Japan will return to a period of political instability similar to that of the pre-Abe era, when Japan cycled between six prime ministers in six years.

There are many complex problems. He is not the strongest leader in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. So I am very concerned about the current regime of the Prime Minister.” said Takeshi Niinami: former Prime Minister Suga’s economic advisor and CEO of Japanese beverage giant Suntory.

The Blue House said South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a congratulatory message to Kishida on Monday, expressing hope that the two leaders will develop relations between Korea and Japan and work together as neighbors.

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CNN’s John Bay contributed to this report.

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