Who is Fumio Kishida, Japan’s next PM


Mr. Kishida, the scion of a political family from Hiroshima, has long targeted the top job.

Japan’s ruling party elected former foreign minister Fumio Kishida its new leader on Wednesday, setting him on course to become the next prime minister of the world’s third-largest economy.

The 64-year-old will be confirmed as the new premier in a vote in parliament on October 4 and will then lead his party into general elections that must happen by November.

Mr. Kishida, the scion of a political family from Hiroshima, has long targeted the top job. It was second time lucky for the experienced politician: he lost out in 2020 to Yoshihide Suga, who is stepping down after just a year as prime minister.

He became the first candidate to step into the race and ran on a platform of pandemic stimulus, touting himself as a listener who carried a suggestion box to events to receive proposals from citizens.

 

 

Mr. Kishida is widely regarded as a safe pair of hands, despite a low-key presence that has sometimes been characterised as a lack of charisma.

Mr. Kishida previously served as LDP policy chief and was foreign minister between 2012-17, during which he negotiated accords with Russia and South Korea, with whom Japan’s relations are often frosty.

He has called abolishing nuclear weapons “my life’s work”, and in 2016 helped bring then-US president Barack Obama to Hiroshima on a historic visit.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Mr. Kishida entered politics in 1993, having previously worked at a bank as the Japanese economy boomed.

He is a big fan of the Hiroshima Carp baseball team, and is said to enjoy a drink — unlike Mr. Suga, who is teetotal — while his wife hails from a wealthy sake-brewing family.

A keen baseball player at school, Mr. Kishida failed three times to pass the law entrance exam for Tokyo University, much to his parents’ disappointment.

He studied instead at Waseda, a prestigious private university in the capital that he reportedly chose for its serious, non-pretentious atmosphere.

The father-of-three has touted his listening skills and says Japan’s public wants a “politics of generosity”.

He has invited voters to leave him messages in a suggestion box and carried a notebook to events in which to scribble down ideas from the public.

But he hasn’t always connected with the population and found himself roundly mocked during last year’s leadership vote when he posted an awkwardly posed picture on Twitter of his wife serving him dinner in an apron.



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