Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) elected 64-year-old Fumio Kishida as its head on Wednesday. On October 4, the parliament elected him Prime Minister of the country.
Kishida, who would become the 100th Prime Minister of Japan since the country adopted a cabinet system in 1885, succeeds Yoshihide Suga, who did not stand for re-election as party leader after his popularity fell at following strong criticism of its management of the pandemic.
Kishida owes his electoral victory to the “old guard” of the PLD, such as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and current Finance Minister Taro Aso, who wield vast powers behind the scenes.
They backed Kishida to prevent popular vaccine and reform minister Taro Kono from becoming prime minister. They see Kono as too middle-of-the-road – or even progressive – in many of its policies, which stray too far from their conservative line.
Kishida is also a member of the PLD establishment, which has ruled Japan almost continuously since 1955.
He comes from a political dynasty, with his father and grandfather in parliament. Kishida himself has been a member of the legislature since 1993 and heads his own party faction which comprises 46 MPs.
Most recently, he served as chairman of the Political Research Council, holding one of the top three positions in the party. Nonetheless, he is a strong advocate for change than his predecessor Suga.
The “old guard” of the PLD sees Taro Kono as too intermediate – even progressive – in many of its policies
Turning away from neoliberalism?
In terms of economic policy, Kishida says he wants to continue the economic reforms, known as “Abenomics”, initiated by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, focusing on expansionary monetary and fiscal policies.
He also wants to put in place a massive stimulus package worth around 30 trillion yen (231 billion euros) ($ 269 billion) by the end of the year to help Japanese companies. affected by the economic damage caused by the COVID pandemic.
But at the same time, during the campaign for the head of the party, he promised to move away from the neoliberalism of the last two decades and announced a “new Japanese capitalism”.
“Only growth, deregulation and structural reforms do not lead to true happiness,” Kishida said.
Focus on economic security
The appointed head of government said he aims to put in place measures to increase people’s incomes, for example, by changing tax laws so that if companies pay higher wages, they benefit from fiscal advantages.
Kishida also wants to protect small and medium enterprises from market power and the domination of large multinational corporations.
“Companies with many suppliers should be careful,” said Junichi Makino, chief economist of brokerage firm SMBC Nikko.
Kishida’s other ideas also call for a strong expansionary fiscal policy, including a 10,000 billion yen university endowment fund for technological research and development, and his future concept of a “city-state concept.” digital garden “which seeks to bring out the vitality of rural areas. through the use of advanced technologies.
With the aim of meeting environmental commitments and ensuring climate neutrality by 2050, Kishida calls for a “realistic assessment” for the restart and construction of new nuclear reactors.
The “conciliatory wing” of the LDP
Between 2013 and 2017, Kishida was Minister of Foreign Affairs and, for a time, Minister of Defense.
The faction he leads is seen as the “conciliatory wing” of the PLD, advocating for the country’s peaceful constitution and against Japan’s nuclear weaponry.
Kishida himself is from Hiroshima and several members of his family died when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city in 1945. In one of his books he pleads for a world without nuclear weapons.
But China’s assertive foreign policy, in Kishida’s own words, set off a “strong alarm”, prompting Tokyo to ally with like-minded countries like the United States, Australia and India for counter the growing political, military and economic weight of Beijing.
Nonetheless, Kishida would focus not only on Japan’s military capability – even if it wishes to expand the country’s missile defenses – but also on economic security, with an emphasis on securing supply chains for components strategically. important such as semiconductors.
This article was translated from German.