After ‘stability’ keys victory, time for Kishida to exercise teamwork

Stability was appreciated more than communication skills as the quality essential for the next prime minister.

Former Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida defeated regulatory reform minister Taro Kono in a runoff in the party’s presidential election, paving the way for Kishida to become the 100th prime minister.

It will be the first time in 30 years for a prime minister to come from Kochikai, the LDP faction now led by Kishida, since Kiichi Miyazawa. By a curious coincidence, Kishida joined the Diet for the first time in the 1993 House of Representatives election when the LDP fell from power and the Miyazawa Cabinet was forced out.

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has the public on edge, Kishida touted his ability to listen and his tolerance. His record of serving as foreign minister for four years and seven months also seems to have contributed to his victory.

It was Kono, however, who garnered the most support among the LDP’s rank-and-file members and members of affiliated groups. Kishida must take this seriously.

Kishida is said to look up to samurai Saigo Takamori, a leading figure of the Meiji Restoration. Saigo was influenced by a collection of a Confucian scholar’s essays called “Genshi shiroku” that contains a political adage: “Be bold but not violent.”

At times, strong leadership and decision-making ability are required. At the same time, however, it is important that politicians carry out “courteous and modest politics and don’t knock the public into submission from their own righteousness,” as Kishida advocated during the LDP presidential election.

Kishida must not forget to make every effort to give the public thorough explanations, which Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was poor at.

First, Kishida must establish a lineup of party executives and cabinet members to deal with urgent tasks regarding the economy, diplomacy and security. He shouldn’t come up with a lineup that gives obvious rewards to those who supported him, nor is based on clockwork promotions, but should establish a system in which politicians and bureaucrats can properly share roles and carry out policies. Kishida now has the chance to show his ability to exercise teamwork, which he places much value on.

In terms of the pandemic, progress in the vaccination rollout has led to a rapid decline in the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus, but the fear of a sixth wave of infections remains. Kishida must seek in-depth cooperation from the central and local governments and medical associations, so as not to encounter another collapse in medical services. Kishida’s ability to affect people will be tested.

Japan faces a declining population and low birth rate along with an aging society. Looking abroad, Japan is faced with China’s remarkable rise. Under the circumstances, the next prime minister must present an overall picture of the country with a view toward the future.

A House of Representatives election is expected in early November. The time is approaching when Kishida’s style of politics will be judged by voters.