Society and the economy, which have been damaged by the spread of the novel coronavirus, must be reconstructed. Each candidate aiming for the post of prime minister needs to clearly present the course Japan should take and speak concretely on how to deal with domestic and foreign issues.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has announced his candidacy for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, which will choose a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. With the campaign officially starting on Tuesday and the voting and ballot counting on Sept. 14, the outline of the election is becoming clear, centering on three candidates: Suga, LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba.
All three are veterans who have held important posts. It is hoped that they will use their knowledge to actively discuss policies.
At a press conference, Suga said, “I’d like to inherit Prime Minister Abe’s policies and push them forward,” emphasizing his intention to maintain Abe’s economic policy package, known as Abenomics.
The Abe Cabinet has helped corporate performance recover and improved the employment environment through fiscal spending and bold monetary easing. It is commendable that Suga has indicated his intention to take the reins of government with priority on the economy.
On the other hand, it cannot be said that the growth strategy has produced results. Discussions on sustainable social security systems and fiscal reconstruction are slightly lagging. Such issues should not be left unaddressed. It is not sufficient to only express the intention to continue the policies of the Abe Cabinet.
During Abe’s long-running administration, multiple cases of the sloppy handling and destruction of records, as well as falsification of official documents, have been discovered. It is true that public distrust has spread.
It is questionable that Suga has described all of these issues as “having already been settled.” Even if he becomes the new prime minister, trust in his administration could be shaken. He has a responsibility to make efforts to examine and improve decision-making and document management.
Kishida announced his policies centering on measures against the coronavirus. He expressed his intention to expand the virus testing and implement economic stimulus measures flexibly. Ishiba focused on policies to eliminate overconcentration of population and government functions in Tokyo and build a safer nation, such as by establishing a disaster prevention ministry.
Both Kishida and Ishiba stressed the need to support research on artificial intelligence and develop digital infrastructure. It is understandable that they are trying to make up for the weakness of Abenomics and revitalize the economy.
Five of the LDP’s seven factions expressed support for Suga. He has the upper hand in terms of Diet members’ votes, which account for 75% of the total votes.
What cannot be overlooked is the fact that factions are already competing for leadership in an attempt to jump on the bandwagon. The moves appear to be aimed at securing posts in the new administration, but it is an unseemly spectacle.
If Suga, who does not belong to a faction, is elected as the new party president as a result of maneuvering that gives top priority to factional interests, it would go against his grain. It is important to decide on a new leader based on candidates’ election pledges and political stances.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 4, 2020.