Race for Japan’s new Prime Minister kicks off

Tokyo – The campaign to become Japan’s next Prime Minister kicks off on Friday, with four candidates vying for leadership of the ruling party in an unusually close race.

The candidates include two women hoping to lead in a country that has never had a female prime minister, though both are considered long shots.

The race comes after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s shock announcement last month that he would not run for head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Whoever the party picks in a September 29 vote will become prime minister and contest a general election that has to be held by late November.

As the LDP is expected to retain power, its leaders is likely to be the person leading the world’s third largest economy in coming years, and will face challenges from dealing with China to tackling climate change.

While outspoken vaccine chief Taro Kono leads public polls on who should be Japan’s next leader, the result is far from clear-cut because most of the party’s major factions are not backing a candidate.

“In this race, given that the factions aren’t endorsing anyone officially, it’s kind of a free-for-all,” said Tobias Harris, senior fellow for Asia at the Center for American Progress

“It’s hard to say that there’s really a true front-runner.”

Kono’s main competition is expected to come from ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who heads a large LDP faction that will back him in the race.


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