Agencies: Japan’s governing party elected Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister and the candidate least likely to stray from the mainstream platform, as its choice for the next prime minister.
A moderate party stalwart, Kishida, 64, lagged in public opinion polls but had the backing of conservatives in the governing Liberal Democratic Party. He offered little to distinguish himself from the unpopular departing leader, Yoshihide Suga.
Kishida defeated his popular rival, Taro Kono, the outspoken U.S.-educated vaccine minister, 257 to 170, in a runoff vote on Wednesday.
Japan’s Parliament will hold a special session early next month to officially select the new prime minister. Given that the Liberal Democrats control the legislature, Kishida’s appointment is all but guaranteed. He will then lead the party in a general election to be held by the end of November.
What’s next: By going with the safe pair of hands, the party seemed to demonstrate its confidence that it could win the election despite choosing a leader with lackluster public support. Voters have become frustrated with the government’s handling of the pandemic.