Yoshihide Suga’s sudden withdrawal threatens the turbulent return of Japanese politics

Japanese politics and policy updates

Yoshihide Suga wins the game success Shinzo Abe was the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Prime Minister of Japan in Landslide last year. He is a continuous candidate who vowed to implement Abe’s policies; a capable candidate, known for his powerful performance behind the scenes; and a consensus candidate, who does not ally with any large organized faction in the party.

These qualities are his strengths-but they have also proved to be his weaknesses and help explain why he has ResignThe promise of continuity makes it difficult for him to determine his policy agenda, which is something his successor needs to do to endure; his image of ability is compromised by being deemed to have failed to control Covid-19; and passing consensus means elections There was no potential tension in the LDP after eight years of promotion, and the young generation of the party closed the highest job. His position is always weaker than it looks.

Immediately after Suga Yoshihide took office Decisive decision It is not about holding a general election-he is likely to win easily-but about to be in power for the final year of this Congress. However, his purpose in governing has never become clear. Officials in Kantei, known as the Prime Minister’s Office, muttered to himself that Yoshihide Suga was unwilling to appoint representatives. His provocative indifference in public places makes him very helpful as a government spokesperson, but he is not suitable for the role of lead singer and national leader.

Yoshihide Suga does have his own policies, such as reducing mobile phone costs and creating an agency Digital government And allow Fertility treatment Included in the National Health Insurance. But they do not constitute a coherent vision of Japan like Abe’s national economic recovery message.One of the major changes made by Yoshihide Suga, and his legacy to the world, is to vowed to achieve Net zero carbon emissions In Japan by 2050.

If the time is good, then the lack of goals may not matter.But this is not the case: Although Japan’s response to Covid is relatively successful according to global standards, the government has Slowly roll out the vaccine, Refused to fund generous vacations and promoted The unpopular Tokyo OlympicsA different leader may have the same struggle-but this is why potential competitors are happy to let Suga hold the top position.

Yoshihide Suga’s failure to last more than a year does not necessarily mean that Japan must return to the turbulent era that brought six different prime ministers between 2006 and 2012. However, to build a strong prime minister, the next leader of the Liberal Democratic Party needs to pass Covid and develop a policy vision that persuades the public to give leaders the ability to tame the party’s internal factions. The general election is approaching, and the Liberal Democratic Party needs a candidate with popular appeal.

The most obvious choice is Kono Taro, A former foreign minister and defense minister, known for his active performance on social media. The other announced candidate is another former foreign minister Fumio Kishida. He is not very popular with the public but is capable of making deals within the Liberal Democratic Party.

More candidates may explore the campaign, if only to leave a mark for the future-but the choice between the vote winner and party officials will reveal whether the Liberal Democratic Party is really ready to advance from Abe and enter a new era of government of.

robin.harding@ft.com

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