Kishida Gearing Up for By-Elections in April

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, second from right, and others raise their fists during a cheer in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Sunday.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, visited the western prefecture of Yamaguchi on Sunday, as he started in earnest preparations for by-elections slated for April.

It is unusual for the prime minister to visit a place where a by-election is to be held just a month and a half before the election.

By-elections for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament, will be held on April 23 in the No. 2 and No. 4 constituencies of Yamaguchi, as well as in the No. 5 constituency of Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and the No. 1 constituency of Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan.

A by-election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, is also expected to take place in the southwestern prefecture of Oita the same day.

On Sunday afternoon, Kishida visited the Yamaguchi No. 4 constituency, which was the home of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead while delivering a stump speech in July last year.

At a meeting for the LDP’s candidate there, Kishida said, “Only the LDP-Komeito coalition can deliver results on issues that cannot be postponed.”

In the evening, he arrived in the Yamaguchi No. 2 constituency and attended a meeting for the eldest son of former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is runnig to take over the father’s Lower House seat.

Kishida also plans to visit Chiba, Wakayama and Oita, while working to draw up additional measures as soon as possible to tackle rising prices, which are of great concern to voters, according to informed sources.

The reason for Kishida’s early preparations for the by-elections is that the elections are likely to be a test of whether he can run the government stably, a year and a half after taking office in October 2021.

His immediate predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, stepped down after the LDP lost all three national elections held in April 2021.

The LDP aims to win all the upcoming by-elections. It has decided to field a new candidate in the Chiba No.5 constituency and a former Lower House member in the Wakayama No. 1 constituency. It is working to select its candidate in Oita.

Meanwhile, opposition parties appear to be lagging behind in the Yamaguchi constituencies, which are conservative strongholds. In the No. 4 constituency, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is planning to endorse a former Upper House member.

In Chiba, four opposition parties—the CDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), the Democratic Party for the People and the Japanese Communist Party—are supporting different candidates after the LDP’s incumbent resigned over a political funds issue.

In Wakayama, Nippon Ishin, which is based in Osaka Prefecture, north of Wakayama, plans to field a female member of the city assembly of Wakayama, the namesake capital of the prefecture.

In Oita, the incumbent Upper House member, who does not belong to any party, is set to shortly resign to run in a gubernatorial election there. The incumbent won the 2019 election, with the join support of opposition parties. The opposition camp is aiming to repeat such a victory.

CDP leader Kenta Izumi has indicated his party’s willingness to promote electoral cooperation with opposition colleagues. “It’s desirable for choices for voters to be clear (between the ruling and opposition camps),” he said.