Tokyo (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, his support ratings in tatters ahead of a general election, said this month he would step down, meaning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will choose a new leader on Wednesday, who will become premier.
Here are details about four LDP lawmakers running for the top job.
For the candidates’ economic policies, click here.
Taro Kono, 58
In charge of Japan’s rocky vaccination rollout, Kono ranks high on the list of lawmakers voters want to see succeed Suga.
Educated at Georgetown University and a fluent English speaker, the social media savvy Kono, who has a reputation as a maverick, has served as foreign and defence minister and holds the portfolio for administrative reform.
Long seen as a critique of nuclear power, Kono calls for boosting renewable energy and ending fossil fuel-based power generation as soon as possible, while weaning Japan from nuclear energy as reactors reach the end of their lifetime one by one.
On social issues, he favours the introduction of same-sex marriage and supports allowing married couples to have different surnames.
He has differentiated his conservative stances from those of his father, former chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, who authored a landmark 1993 apology to “comfort women”, a euphemism for women forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.
The leading contender said last week Japan should not lose the information war against South Korea’s “propaganda” on comfort women and other contentious bilateral issues.
Kono, like the three other candidates, welcomes Taiwan’s bid to join a free trade pact called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Fumio Kishida, 64
A low-key former foreign minister from Hiroshima, Kishida spearheaded Japan’s effort to realise U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic 2016 visit to the western Japanese city devastated by U.S. nuclear bombing seven decades earlier.
He considers acquiring capability to strike enemy bases as a viable option, as North Korea presses ahead with its nuclear and missile programmes.
Kishida supports passing a parliamentary resolution condemning China’s alleged human rights abuse against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and calls for appointing a prime ministerial aide to monitor the human rights situation in the region.
China denies allegations of abuses in Xinjiang.
Kishida views nuclear power as Japan’s important energy option to ensure stable and affordable electricity supply, as the country strives to meet its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
To better fight the coronavirus pandemic, Kishida calls for establishing a new government agency overseeing health crisis management and giving strong support for domestic development of COVID-19 vaccines and medicine.
Sanae Takaichi, 60
A former internal affairs minister, Takaichi has made clear her desire to become Japan’s first female premier, and said she would introduce policies to fend off China’s technology threat and help strengthen the economy.
Takaichi, a member of the party’s most conservative wing, advocates boosting Japan’s defence spending and calls for legislation to prevent leaks of sensitive information to China. She also condemns China for its alleged human rights abuses.
Takaichi has defended her visits to Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism as it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals and the war dead, citing the freedom of religion, and said she intended to continue her visits if she became prime minister.
Rival Kono has said he would not make such visits during his term as premier.
On energy policy, Takaichi proposes supporting the development of small-sized nuclear fusion reactors as a national project to help Japan meet its energy need without emitting more greenhouse gases.
Seiko Noda, 61
Noda struggled to gain the backing of the 20 LDP lawmakers needed to run in the party leadership race and is seen as a long shot.
She has been a consistent voice urging Japan to address its declining birthrate and fast-ageing population while advocating women’s empowerment.
Noda has said she would fill half of her cabinet’s ministerial posts with women.