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Japan Ruling Party Elects Fumio Kishida Leader, Next PM

Japan Ruling Party Elects Fumio Kishida Leader, Next PM
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By Staff, Agencies

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 soft-spoken centrist defeated popular vaccine chief Taro Kono in an unusually close race to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who decided to step down after just a year in office.

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.

Kishida, the scion of a political family from Hiroshima, has long targeted the top job and ran unsuccessfully last year, losing out to Suga.

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.

But the race was a tight one, with Kishida edging Kono by just a single vote in the first round of the voting of Liberal Democratic Party members and parliamentarians.

He had a convincing victory in the second round, taking 257 votes to Kono's 170.

Two other candidates, hawkish right-winger Sanae Takaichi and feminist former gender equality minister Seiko Noda, did not advance beyond the first-round vote.