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How do “post-Abe” candidates fare in an emergency situation

  • March 12, 2020
  • , Sankei , p. 5
  • JMH Translation
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The spread of the new coronavirus infection is also testing the skills of Liberal Democratic Party’s “post-Abe” candidates. All the more because these candidates are evaluated based on their decisions and behavior, their actions during the spread of the coronavirus infection have garnered interest within the LPD as a “litmus test.”


Health minister Katsunobu Kato has suddenly gained wide exposure with the spread of infection. He is thought to handle his job steadily and to perform consistently in Diet interpellations. A top MHLW official said that “they can weather the situation because Kato is at the helm.” On the other hand, opposition parties have attacked him for “misjudgment” on the handling of mass infections aboard the Diamond Princess and delayed preparations for virus testing.


Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who belongs to the same Takeshita faction as Kato, contributed towards the early return of Japanese nationals living in Wuhan, China. A top foreign ministry official said that Motegi included assistance to China in his approach to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, which led to China allowing charter flights to Japan before those to other countries.


On the other hand, a weekly magazine reported that Motegi was playing golf on Feb. 29, the day that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the countermeasures in a press conference, leading to Motegi’s grilling in the Diet.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has a reputation for good crisis management, but the resignation of a cabinet member with whom he had close ties has been viewed as problematic. In terms of measures against the coronavirus, Suga is one step behind the prime minister and other cabinet members.


A young Diet member says that although Suga seemed to be “tired” during the latter half of 2019, he is now “full of vigor.” Some see Suga as waiting for an opportunity to show his presence.


Environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi has lowered his standing considerably. Koizumi missed a February meeting of the coronavirus task force to attend a New Year’s party held by a group of his supporters. In a joint Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network opinion poll, 8.6 % said he was most appropriate to serve as prime minister, a decrease of 5.9 percentage points from the previous poll.


Minister in charge of economic revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura’s duties expanded with the coronavirus infection. In addition to being in command of measures to boost the weak economy, Nishimura is responsible for the revision to the special measures law for pandemic influenza and new infectious diseases. Nishimura belongs to the Hosoda faction (Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai), to which Abe also was a member. Whether Nishimura can meet expectations will be the test of whether he can make his mark.


LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida has worked to include relief for small and mid-sized companies experiencing cash flow problems into the government’s emergency measures against the coronavirus. He is seen as expecting a “smooth transfer of power” from the prime minister and is not in a position to be overtly critical of government’s decision-making. A veteran of the Kishida faction (Kochikai) says that it will be difficult for Kishida to demonstrate his individuality.


Former LDP secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba had proposed measures such as having schools start their spring breaks earlier than usual and expanding the entry ban from China into Japan, even before the government announced such measures. He has repeatedly criticized the Abe administration in the past. For now, Ishiba seems to be in a political cease-fire, saying he will “support the prime minister.”

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