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New Japanese Prime Minister calls for October 31 elections, vows to fight pandemic
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called parliamentary elections for October 31 on Monday and pledged to strengthen the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, shortly after being officially confirmed by the most senior legislators.
Kishida, a 64-year-old former foreign minister with a consensus-builder image, earlier unveiled a ministerial lineup dominated by allies of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Finance Minister Taro Aso.
“I want to make sure that we implement bold, large-scale countermeasures and economic policies against coronaviruses. To do this, we have to ask people if they trust me, Kishida, to carry out these policies, ”he said at his inaugural press conference.
“I would like to pursue a policy of trust and compassion with the mandate of the people,” he said, drawing on the main theme of his campaign to become leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), making politics more accessible to the public.
While Kishida may enjoy a honeymoon period typically offered to new governments, analysts have said he probably doesn’t want to waste time, given the risks posed by the pandemic.
His decision to call an election surprised most analysts who expected the election to be held in November. Parliament will now be dissolved on October 14.
Kishida said he would consider COVID-19 relief payments, adding that he also asked ministers overseeing the pandemic response to come up with policies on vaccinations, strengthen the medical system and expand testing for help reopen the economy. New cases of the coronavirus in Tokyo totaled 87 on Monday, the lowest since November 2 last year.
Kishida’s predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, enjoyed a support rate of around 70% shortly after taking office a year ago, but has come under heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic. Following Suga’s decision to make way for a new face, Kishida defeated three candidates who will almost certainly be next afternoon-2021-09-28 for the LDP leadership last week, paving the way for the Parliament to officially elect it. prime minister Monday.
Kishida’s cabinet includes allies of Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who resigned last year due to poor health as his dream of another term faded. Of the 20 positions, 13 were filled by people with no previous ministerial experience, in line with Kishida’s commitment to promote new faces, but many prominent positions went to allies of Abe or the outgoing finance minister. Aso.
“He won the elections with the support of Abe and Aso, so now is the time for him to reciprocate, now is not the time for him to cut them,” said political scientist Atsuo Ito.
Aso’s replacement in the finance ministry is his low-key brother-in-law, Shunichi Suzuki, who is seen as likely to continue the government’s policy of tempering growth spending through tax reform.
Kishida said he wanted to pursue policies that result in “a new kind of capitalism” that distributes more wealth to households and tackles the growing income gap in Japan, adding that the rate adjustment Taxing financial income – which is taken from investment income – was among the options he wanted. to consider.
One of Abe’s closest friends, former Minister of Economy Akira Amari, has become the powerful secretary general of the ruling party.
Amari, who pledged a big extra budget after the election, told reporters on Monday that measures should be included to improve social divisions and COVID-19.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is Abe’s brother, retained his post, as did Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, reflecting Kishida’s intention to continue Abe and Suga’s efforts to strengthen the The country’s security ties with the United States while preserving trade ties with China.
President Joe Biden praised Kishida, describing the US-Japan alliance as a “cornerstone” of peace and stability in the region. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he hopes for “friendly and cooperative” relations with Japan, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Kishida said Japan should continue talks with China, but expressed concern about steps Beijing is taking to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas.
Kishida also created a new post of Minister of Economic Security and provided it with a close ally of Amari, the architect of policies to protect China’s sensitive technologies in areas such as chains. procurement and cybersecurity.
There are three women in the lineup, one more than Suga, but none of them hold a weight portfolio.