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Yoshihide Suga’s Exit Sets Off Fight to Reshape Japanese politics: Race to Succeed PM will Focus on Covid, May Usher in New Gen of Leaders Updated: 2021-09-06 17:15:57 KST

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will not seek re-election as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party next month, which will effectively end his tenure in the top job after only one year. What will this mean for Japanese politics with a general election due later in the year?
I want to bring in Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies and Professor of History at Temple University in Japan.

Professor Kingston, welcome to the show.

So, I want to very quickly go over the background of Yoshihide Suga's resignation. The announcement was rather abrupt. Why has Suga made this decision now and where does this leave the ruling LDP?

So, it's widely thought to be connected with the administration's handling of the COVID pandemic. Instead of a post-Olympic bump, Suga’s cabinet saw its lowest approval ratings since he took office at just 29-percent in mid-August. Where has it gone wrong?

The sudden decision by PM Suga has dramatically shaken up this month's leadership race and likely the national election, due soon after.
So, who will replace Yoshihide Suga as Japan's prime minister? There are two openly declared candidates already running: Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida who finished second to Suga in last year's leadership ballot and Sanae Takaichi, a former internal affairs minister who, if successful, would become the first female prime minister.

How will this affect the general elections - the date of which has not been announced, but by law, it must be held by November 14th. So, how will a new LDP leader affect the general elections?

Looking at recent surveys, it looks like there are five strong contenders with Taro Kono, minister in charge of fighting COVID-19, leading the polls, followed by former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba.
There is also former internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, who reportedly has the backing of Shinzo Abe hoping to become Japan's first woman prime minister.
How will the different scenarios impact Japan's relations with its neighbors like South Korea and China?

Analysts say the outcome of the leadership race could be a turning point for Japanese politics if the Covid-19 crisis and the threat to the ruling LDP's long grip on power trigger a contest that is not decided by traditional factional politics. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan Campus, thanks for speaking with us tonight.
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