TOKYO (AP) – The race for the next Japanese Prime Minister is on.
The official election campaign for the new head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan began on Friday, a role that typically signals the next national leader.
Four candidates stand in the September 29 vote to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who will be in office after just one year when his term ends at the end of this month. He took over for the predecessor Shinzo Abe.
Unusually for Japan there are two women in the race. The only other challenger was in 2008 when Yuriko Koike, who is currently the governor of Tokyo, made a run.
Early Friday, the four each submitted their official candidacies at party headquarters ahead of a series of joint public debates and other campaigns planned for the next 12 days.
Their policies focus on the pandemic and its economic consequences, as well as the increasingly aggressive role China has played in regional affairs.
Approval ratings for Suga and his government have plummeted due to his handling of the virus and his insistence on hosting the Olympics despite the pandemic, and the party hopes a new face can bring them victory in the general election, which was held by the end of November Need to become.
Abe’s long reign saw an unusual political stability, but also an attitude that critics described as autocratic and ultra-nationalist.
Taro Kono, who is currently in charge of vaccinations and is considered the top candidate in the elections, said as he launched his campaign on Friday that he wanted a society that people see as compassionate. Kono is considered a loner in the conservative political culture of Japan and also wants to reform his own party.
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is considered a close contender with Kono, said he would listen to the voice of the people and “restore a sense of unity in this country divided by the coronavirus pandemic”. Once viewed as indecisive moderate, he has grown into a security and diplomatic hawk in seeking support from influential conservatives like Abe.
Sanae Takaichi, who shares Abe’s right-wing and revisionist political views, wants to become the country’s first female prime minister. The former interior minister called for a stronger military and said on Friday that she wanted ample government spending to create a “beautiful and strong Japan that is growing”.
“We don’t just need strength,” said Seiko Noda, a former minister of post and gender equality who hopes to become Japan’s first female leader. As a late starter, Noda vows to achieve a diverse and inclusive society that she believes is lacking in Japan.
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