Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday he will dissolve the lower house next week in preparation for October 31 elections as he seeks a fresh mandate to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the sagging economy and security threats from China and North Korea.
Kishida was formally elected by parliament earlier Monday to replace Yoshihide Suga, who resigned after only one year in office. Suga’s support had plunged over his handling of the pandemic and insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics as the virus spread.
“Our fight against the coronavirus is continuing,” Kishida told his first news conference Monday night after taking office. “COVID-19 measures is the urgent and top priority, and I will handle the problem taking into consideration the worst-case scenario.” He said he will review the past virus handling and seek to set up a crisis management unit.
He also pledged to push through with a large-scale recovery package to support those hit by the pandemic.
“In order to take large-scale COVID-19 measures, I need to get the people’s mandate,” Kishida said, adding that he will pass up attending G-20 and COP-26 climate meetings in-person.
A former foreign minister, Kishida, 64, used to be known as a moderate but turned hawkish on security and more conservative on gender equality and other issues, apparently to win over influential conservatives in his Liberal Democratic Party. His victory in last week’s vote to replace Suga as the party’s leader was seen as a choice for continuity and stability over change.
Kishida replaced all but two of Suga’s 20 Cabinet members, and 13 will hold posts for the first time, according to the lineup announced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno. Most of the posts went to powerful factions that voted for Kishida in the party election. Only three women are included, up from two in Suga’s government.