Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
Japan is going to have a new prime minister in early October. Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) held a leadership election on September 29 and elected Mr. Fumio Kishida as the next party leader. LDP has majority seats in both Houses of the National Diet (Japan’s legislature) which will be convened on October 4 and will elect Mr. Kishida as the 100th prime minister in Japan’s democratic history.
Mr. Kishida will replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who announced in early September to step down from his short-lived premiership. Suga was widely seen a temporary substitute for his predecessor and former boss Mr. Shinzo Abe who was the longest serving prime minister in Japan’s history and resigned last September because of his aggravated chronic illness.
Kishida, respected as decent and stable political figure, has always been awaited as a forerunner of the next prime minister, though missing several chances in LDP party leadership races.
Kishida finally passed the first hurdle to power, the party election, winning the heart of his colleagues of LDP colleagues.
His second challenge will be the coming general election of the Lower Diet (House of Representatives) which will be held until late November, after the term of the present members of House of Representatives will expire on October 21.
LDP is expected to keep its majority in the Lower House in this election without much difficulty. If Mr. Kishida overcome the third and last hurdle when he wins the Upper House (House of Councilors) elections which will be held in July 2022, he firmly consolidates his leadership position. Many expects and anticipates his rule become a long and stable one.
Japan itself is in the phase of consolidation and stabilization after the decade of transformation, particularly in the fields of economy and security.
Japanese society has been undergoing a quiet but drastic transformation during the past decade, fully adapting itself to globalization.
Japan’s national security policy changed in the past decade from the inward-looking low-profile one maintained since the end of the World War II to a more proactive one engaging in world affairs with strengthened ties and integrated operations with US, UK, and like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific, such as India and Australia.
Japan has coordinated and reassured US in its reentry into the Asia-Pacific region and the wider Indo-Pacific, maintaining the free and open order of international trade, industry, and investment.
COVID-19 shutdown gave Japan a short respite from waves of incessant changes. When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Japan will sail again into a tumultuous water caught between the ever-heightened US-China rivalry. Japan needs to consolidate its foundation of politics and economy and Kishida stands for it.