Japanese Politics and Policy Updates
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Sanae Takaichi, a hard-core nationalist with strong views on national security, has entered the competition to succeed Yoshihide Suga as she aspires to become Japan’s first female prime minister.
The former communications minister, who has been supported by Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, is one of Japan’s few prominent female politicians. But she is a divisive figure who has regularly visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine and has pushed for constitutional reforms to bolster Japan’s military capabilities.
Takaichi launched her campaign on Tuesday, saying that if she was elected to succeed Suga as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), she would adhere to her predecessors’ Abenomics program, which relies on aggressive monetary and fiscal policies. incentives.
Takaichi called her plans “Sanaenomics” and suggested investing more in crisis management so Japan can better address risks such as the pandemic, food security and cyber-attacks.
She would also postpone Japan’s goal of returning to a primary balance surplus by 2025 to prioritize reaching the 2 percent inflation target and forgo raising consumption taxes to fund the stimulus.
“With this plan to make the Japanese economy resilient, I will rebuild the economy and put it on the path to growth,” she said at a news conference in Tokyo.
To address the coronavirus crisis, Takaichi said she would consider a new legal framework to allow for lockdowns. While countries in Europe and elsewhere have introduced mandatory lockdowns, social distancing in Japan has always been voluntary, in part because of a constitutional right to free movement.
Suga abruptly resigned last week after his popularity collapsed as a result of his handling of the pandemic. His departure after leading just a year raised concerns that Japan might return to a period of political instability preceding Abe’s nearly eight-year tenure.
Takaichi, who does not belong to any faction, does not rank highly in popularity polls and few analysts think she can gain enough support to beat other leading candidates, such as vaccine minister Taro Kono and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida.
“We still don’t know how the match will go, but so far the majority believes that this will be a battle between Kishida and Kono,” said an LDP MP who belongs to a faction associated with Abe.
But with many of the LDP’s powerful factions yet to decide which candidate to support, Takaichi’s entry could split critical votes.
She is the only female runner to date, but she is unlikely to accelerate women’s progress in Japan with her conservative views on gender.
She has long argued that married couples should continue to use the same last name, a practice that women’s rights activists say violates their constitutional right to equality. She is also against allowing female imperial succession.
The LDP will elect its next leader through an electoral college on September 29, with its 383 MPs holding half of the vote and regional party officials the rest.
Whoever wins will almost certainly become the next prime minister, as the ruling coalition holds a majority in parliament. In that case, general elections must be held before November 30.