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The race for a new Japanese Prime Minister to replace Shinzo Abe begins

Image Credit: Reuters

On Friday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that he is stepping down, due to health issues. In a televised press conference, the PM Shinzo Abe explained that his condition, Ulcerative Colitis, has flared up again. The leader has been in office for 8 years, which makes him the longest-lasting prime minister. He explained that he cannot perform his function as a prime minister while receiving medical care. For information regarding Shinzo Abe’s previous terms in office, check here:

On Saturday, the race to replace the PM Shinzo Abe was kicked off. There are several contenders, and the Shinzo Abe will remain prime minister until a successor is found. The governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is set to choose a new Prime Minister around September 15th, according to Kyodo News Agency. The election date and format will be announced on Tuesday. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, in which Japan has been experiencing a new surge of cases, there are several constraints on how the election should be.

Some contenders that might replace Mr. Abe are; Fumio Kishida, party policy chief and is thought to be Mr. Abe’s personal choice, and Shigeru Ishiba, ex-defense minister, seen as more popular with voters in general but seems to have less party support. The Finance Minister, Taro Aso, which was thought to be the most likely successor to Shinzo Abe, announced that he would not run. The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is also said to run for election. The current defense minister, Taro Kono and Ms.Seiko Noda, a former Cabinet Minister are thought to have slim chances.

It is thought that whoever gets elected, would not change the current policies. Professor Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of political science in the Meiji University in Tokyo said, ‘Key policies – diplomacy and economic measures – won’t be changed drastically.’

‘His successor could be a caretaker,’ he added, in light that the LDP will hold a leadership election in September 2021, and then a general election the following month. Professor Yoshinobu Yamamoto, an honorary professor in international politics at the University of Tokyo, believes that the new prime minister will have to face ‘big challenges.’ Apart from the coronavirus outbreak, Japan has diplomatic challenges with China. The new prime minister must also face another problem that so far remains unsolved- the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The games were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will open in July 2021. There are still concerns about whether it would be safe to open such a mass event.

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