The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) elected former Policy Research Council Chair Kishida Fumio (64), after allowing there to be a long “political void” by refusing to convene an extraordinary Diet session amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis despite the opposition parties’ requests for one based on Article 53 of the Constitution.
In a runoff that was heavily weighted in favor of parliamentarians’ votes, Kishida defeated Administrative Reform Minister Kono Taro (58), who garnered the largest number of rank-and-file members’ votes that reflect the general public’s opinions more closely. By choosing Kishida, the party seems to have prioritized “Nagatacho logic,” which focuses on LDP Diet members’ political circumstances rather than serious concerns and the wishes of the rank-and-file members.
In the extraordinary Diet session to be held on Oct. 4, Kishida will be appointed prime minister to succeed Suga Yoshihide, the departing prime minister, whose cabinet will resign en masse. A Lower House election will be held sometime before the end of November, followed by an Upper House election in the summer of 2022. If the LDP fails to win these elections, the Kishida administration could be short-lived.
Kishida received 256 votes in the first round of the LDP presidential election, just one vote more than Kono, and a runoff was held between the two. Although Kono received169 rank-and-file votes in the first round as opposed to Kishida’s 110, the second round, which was heavily weighted in favor of Diet members, overrode the support for Kono in the field and handed the final victory to Kishida.
This was the fifth time for the LDP presidency to be decided by a runoff, the last time being in 2012 when former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo emerged as the victor.
In the 2012 election, Abe came in second in the rank-and-file vote after Ishiba Shigeru but defeated Ishiba in the runoff that only included Diet members’ votes.
The “politics of Abe and Suga” that followed lasted almost nine years. Their administrations promoted those who were amenable to the administration’s core group, made light of Diet interpellations, divided the nation, and governed Japan in a self-righteous manner without explaining their decisions to the public. These characteristics stemmed from Nagatacho logic, in which the Diet members’ political context took precedence over the will of the rank-and-life members who are closer to the general public.
Kishida has called for party reform to regain people’s trust, including appointing mid-career and younger members to senior party positions. In that case, he must above all make it clear which policies of the previous administrations he will continue and which he will not by conducting a review of the politics of Abe and Suga, in which he, too, took part.
In the next Lower House election, the voters will deliver their judgment on Kishida’s decisions as well as the mechanism of the LDP presidential election, which revolved around who would wield most influence within the party.