(Bloomberg) – The ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan officially launches its campaign for a new leader on Tuesday, even though key heavyweights have already stacked the game in favor of Prime Minister’s main aide Shinzo Abe.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who has enough backing from powerful LDP factions to win the party’s vote, is expected to officially run in the race to replace Abe. Two other suitors – former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida – have also said they will run to succeed Abe, who is resigning for health reasons.
After filing around 10 a.m., campaign speeches begin around 1 p.m. Suga made it clear in announcing his candidacy last week that he wanted to keep in place the Prime Minister’s super-easy monetary policy known as “Abenomics”. Any sign of departure could lead to a surge in the yen and a fall in stocks, triggering a reassessment of the nation’s outlook.
The LDP is expected to vote on its new leader on September 14, then use its majority in parliament to elect that person as the next prime minister on September 16. Last week, the LDP opted for a party voting process that gives lawmakers more power, favoring Suga. Five of the LDP’s seven factions lined up behind Suga, who led behind the scenes in Abe’s record-breaking run as prime minister.
The PLD’s vote is among 394 lawmakers and 141 representatives – three each of the country’s 47 prefectures. The factions led by Kishida, with 47 members, and Ishiba, with 19 members, are the only ones not lining up behind Suga, who also heads an unaligned group of a dozen lawmakers.
While Suga recently lagged behind in opinion polls for Japan’s next leader, the public seems to be turning to him. Support for Abe’s government soared 27 percentage points to 62.4% in a survey released by the JNN news network on Monday, with 48% of respondents saying Suga was the most suitable choice to take over .
Abe’s abrupt decision in late August to step down due to a chronic digestive problem after nearly eight years on the job has left the party scrambling to find a new leader in about two weeks. The new prime minister will have no more than a year to try to revive the Japanese economy after a pandemic-induced contraction before calling a general election against a recently unified opposition.
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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