Suga, Kishida and Ishiba hold first public faceoff as LDP race officially begins
Japan Times -- Sep 09
Three candidates running to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as head of the Liberal Democratic Party appeared in their first public faceoff Tuesday, each casting themselves as best qualified to guide the country through the rest of the novel coronavirus pandemic and to address its sluggish economy.

Gathered at LDP headquarters in Tokyo for the event, which was held the same day notice of the forthcoming party election was formally issued, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and LDP policy council chairman Fumio Kishida each participated in a speech and a news conference.

“I’ll continue to take measures without hesitation,” Suga said. “The route lying ahead of us isn’t easy going at all. But if I become president of the Liberal Democrats, I’ll make a Cabinet that works for the people by deconstructing bureaucratic sectionalism, clearing away vested interests, being unbounded by precedents and forging ahead with regulatory reform with all the strength I have.”

The top government spokesman also incorporated his long-held policy aspirations into ideas for responding to the virus, including further promotion of the Go To Travel domestic tourism promotion campaign, intended to invigorate the tourism industry, and digitalization to popularize online education and telemedicine. Suga touched upon his willingness to establish a government agency specializing in the digitalization of government affairs.

The three candidates were aligned on allocating resources and the population outside of the greater Tokyo area. They also vowed to increase support for health care workers and expand virus testing capabilities ahead of the fall and winter seasons, when it is feared the number of cases will again surge.

For Kishida and Ishiba, Suga’s commanding lead in vote counts presents almost impossible odds of turning the tables in their favor. The party’s presidential election has been downsized due to Abe’s abrupt resignation, skipping rank-and-file votes that would have given a boost to Ishiba — and possibly Kishida as well.

Worried about infection risks, the party also decided to halt the practice of candidates making an electioneering tour throughout the nation.

Nevertheless, both appeared determined to present a sharp contrast with Suga, and thus Abe, throughout Tuesday’s appearance, highlighting the negative consequences of policies under the Abe administration and arguing that they would make necessary adjustments.

Ishiba stuck to his guns with veiled attacks on the current administration, some of which were criticized as divisive. He made a dig at the administration’s problematic handling of official government documents, a top-down decision-making approach that critics say has turned bureaucrats into yes men for the Prime Minister’s Office and fiscal policies he believes have benefited only the rich.

News source: Japan Times
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