Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election candidates Taro Kono, Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda (from L to R) pose for a photo prior to a joint press conference at the party's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept. 17, 2021. Campaigning for the leadership race of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to choose the successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga officially began on Friday, with four veteran lawmakers competing for the leader position. The LDP election is set for Sept. 29, and is being contested by former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, former communications minister Sanae Takaichi, vaccination minister Taro Kono and Seiko Noda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Xinhua)
TOKYO, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Campaigning for the leadership race of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to choose the successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga officially began on Friday, with four veteran lawmakers competing for the leader position.
The LDP election is set for Sept. 29, and is being contested by former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, former communications minister Sanae Takaichi, vaccination minister Taro Kono and Seiko Noda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP.
The winner of the LDP race will become the Japanese prime minister as the party controls the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of the parliament, since Suga has announced earlier this month that he would not seek re-election amid the public dissatisfaction with his COVID-19 response.
Among four candidates, Kono, 58, with his reform-minded policies, was viewed as the early front-runner. He gained supports from junior lawmakers with more vulnerable seats, and tops opinion polls on who should succeed Suga as prime minister. Kono also won the backing of Shigeru Ishiba, former defense minister who decided to sit out the race.
During policy speech on Friday, Kono expressed his intent to make Japan a place where people are encouraged to strive to reach their goals rather than settle for what they have, saying "I think a lot of people want to do something but feel like they can not for whatever reason. If I become the leader of this country, I will be proactive in doing what I think should be done."
He vowed to invest in technology such as 5G networks to enable more people to work remotely, and to promote renewable energy amid climate change.
Kishida, 64, is expected to gather supports from veteran lawmakers who are uncomfortable with Kono's reformist ideas, as well as to be backed by his own 47-member faction.
Kishida reiterated his intent to reduce wealth disparity by lifting middle-class incomes. He said, "There is a division between rich and poor, which has grown only wider due to the COVID-19," adding that it is the time to let everyone across Japan enjoy the fruits of economic growth.
Noda, 61, announced her bid on Thursday. Her late entry made it harder to predict who the eventual winner will be. She said in her policy speech that women would comprise half of her Cabinet if she were elected prime minister.
She emphasized the need to create a more inclusive society, including sexual minorities, the elderly, and the disabled, and she would focus on curbing Japan's falling birth rate. Noda also said that she would reopen an investigation into document tampering at the finance ministry related to a scandal involving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Takaichi, 60, belongs to the LDP's right-leaning cohort and is closely allied with Abe. She vowed to "defend Japan's sovereignty and honor" and urged to increase the defense budget.
Both Takaichi and Noda are aiming to become Japan's first female prime minister.
After campaigning, the LDP Diet members and rank-and-file members will cast their ballots on the election, and whoever secures a majority of votes will be declared the winner. If no candidate gains an outright majority in the first round, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders.
In the first round, each of the LDP's 383 Diet members will cast a vote and another 383 votes will be determined based on the preferences of rank-and-file members who are at least 20 years of age, hold Japanese nationality, and have paid membership fees in the previous two years in principle.
In a runoff, the 383 Diet members and each of the LDP's 47 prefectural chapters will cast votes. Enditem