Campaign to succeed PM Abe as party leader begins in Japan

International News
Yoshihide Suga, Shigeru Ishiba, Fumio Kishida

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, center, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, right, and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, left, attend a speech session for the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Official campaigning to choose outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s successor to lead his ruling party, who will almost certainly be Japan’s next leader, kicked off Tuesday, with his long time right-hand man and top government spokesman now seen as a top candidate. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — The official campaigning to lead Japan’s ruling party began Tuesday with the longtime right-hand man of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now seen as a top candidate and his likely successor to lead the government.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosihide Suga, 71, had formally submitted his candidacy for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership last week. The chief government spokesman faces two younger contenders, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, both 63.

The winner of the in-party vote on Sept. 14 will eventually become Japan’s next prime minister because of the ruling bloc’s majority in the parliament. Abe is stepping down for health reasons.

Suga is a latecomer favored among party heavyweights as the best candidate to continue Abe’s policies and have reported lined up to support him in hopes of getting favorable party and Cabinet posts in his administration. Newspaper opinion surveys have also shown Suga surpassing the former favorite Ishiba among the public.

Suga pledged to carry out the challenges left behind by Abe, including measures on the coronavirus, the economic fallout and pursuing Japan-U.S. security alliance.

Ishiba, who has long been seen as Abe’s rival, is vying for the party leadership for the fourth time, calling for a change to the Abenomics economic measures to focus more support for small businesses and low-income earners as well as rural areas.

Kishida, who is currently serving the party policy chief, says he seeks to be a leader who listens to the people’s voices more carefully than Abe and prioritize economic policies to address disparities.

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