Former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was sworn in Monday as the country's 100th Prime Minister to succeed Yoshihide Suga. In his first relevant measure and after making up a cabinet of political veterans, he called for elections scheduled for Oct. 31 where he will seek support for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
“Growth remains an important issue of my policies,” Kishida said upon taking office. “But if the fruits of that growth aren’t distributed properly, consumption and demand won’t grow,” he added.
Kishida had been elected Sept. 29 to head the LDP in a run-off vote against vaccine minister Taro Kono, and two female candidates, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda. This year's LDP election saw the first women in 13 years seeking party leadership.
The new Prime Minister vowed to set up a “new capitalism” panel to lay out a vision for the economy, and policies for distributing income would include a review of taxes on investment income, as well as tax benefits for companies which increase wages.
The new government also envisions cash handouts for individuals whose livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic as well as a raise in pay for health care workers.
Kishida also admitted he was regarded by some as boring and also that he was not the top contestant for the job in terms of popularity. Taro Kono was. Now Kishida aims at gathering support from all those who have paid the consequences of the restrictive measures from the fight against COVID-19 for the Oct. 31 polls.
Although none of the opposition parties have support above single-digit figures, they are believed to be planning on building up coalitions to overcome the LDP.
In another remarkable move, Kishida disposed of 81-year-old Finance Minister Taro Aso and appointed former Olympics Minister Shunichi Suzuki, aged 68, who despite his advantages in terms of youth, is also Aso's brother-in-law and belongs the same faction the outgoing official still heads.
Kishida, who won the LDP leadership race last week, will need to revive Japan's pandemic-hit economy and find a way to balance ties between China, the country’s biggest trade partner and the United States, its only treaty ally.
The new premier has said he was unsure whether China could meet the standards to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Kishida also said he planned to take part in the G-20 meeting in Italy and the COP26 climate summit in the Glasgow remotely.
The Hiroshima native said he would work to achieve a world without nuclear weapons and that he would seek to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong.
Kishida established a new position of minister for economic security as the country seeks to bolster its semiconductor industry.
Japan is on its way to recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. Virus infections have tumbled over the past few weeks, and the state of emergency has been lifted, thus prompting better conditions for bars, restaurants and the tourism.
The male-dominated LDP has struggled for years with gender equality and Kishida appointed three women to his 20-member cabinet, but nevertheless, the highest-profile spots have been allocated to men. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi even kept their jobs.
One barrier to appointing more women as ministers is the dearth of female candidates in the party as a whole. About 10% of lower house lawmakers are women, while among LDP representatives the figure is less than 8%.