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Japan’s Ex-Top Diplomat Fumio Kishida To Become New Prime Minister

Kishida beat Taro Kono, the vaccinations minister, in a runoff after moving ahead of two female candidates Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda in the first round. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Source: Fumio Kishida/ Twitter)

Tokyo: Japan’s former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has won the governing party leadership election and is set to be become the next prime minister.

Kishida replaces outgoing party leader Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is stepping down after serving only one year since taking office last September.

As new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida was most likely to be elected the next prime minister on Monday in parliament, where his party and coalition partner control the house.

Kishida beat Taro Kono, the vaccinations minister, in a runoff after moving ahead of two female candidates Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda in the first round. 

In the first round of votes, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida came in first with 256, only one vote ahead of Taro Kono, the vaccinations minister.

Among the two female candidates, unusual for male-dominated Japanese politics, ultra-conservative Sanae Takaichi and liberal-leaning Seiko Noda had also won 188 votes and 63 votes respectively, dropping out of the race.

Kishida, who has more support from party heavyweights’, will face crucial tasks such as addressing a pandemic-hit economy and ensuring a strong alliance with Washington amid growing regional security risks.

The new leader also needs to change the party’s high-handed reputation, worsened by the outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who angered the public over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and insistence on holding the Olympics in Tokyo this past summer.

Suga is leaving only a year after taking office as a pinch hitter for Abe, who suddenly resigned over health problems, ending his nearly eight-year leadership, the longest in Japan”s constitutional history.