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Next Japan PM Kishida to name Suzuki finance chief, retain foreign minister

Fumio Kishida, the new president of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, plans to appoint senior LDP lawmaker Shunichi Suzuki as finance minister and retain Toshimitsu Motegi as foreign minister when he is elected prime minister next week, party sources said Friday.

Kishida also plans to tap Daishiro Yamagiwa, 53, acting chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, as minister of economy, trade and industry, the sources said.

Combined photo shows Shunichi Suzuki (L) and Toshimitsu Motegi. (Kyodo)

Kishida, who won the LDP presidential election Wednesday, will be elected the new prime minister in an extraordinary Diet session Monday, as the LDP-led coalition holds majority in both chambers of parliament.

Suzuki, 68, a former environment minister, will replace Taro Aso, 81, who took the post of the LDP vice president in a reshuffle of party executives. It will be the first change at the head of the Finance Ministry in eight years and 10 months.

Motegi, 65, will keep the position he has held since September 2019.

Daishiro Yamagiwa. (Kyodo)

Kishida is set to name former education minister Hirokazu Matsuno, 59, as chief Cabinet secretary, replacing Katsunobu Kato.

The chief Cabinet secretary’s role includes being the government’s top spokesperson.

Kishida, meanwhile, unveiled a lineup of party executives that will be tasked with buoying public support ahead of next month’s general election.

Many key posts were filled with close allies of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch conservative who continues to wield influence within the LDP, including Secretary General Akira Amari, 72, and policy chief Sanae Takaichi, 60.

Fumio Kishida (C), the newly elected leader of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, meets the press at the party headquarters in Tokyo on Oct. 1, 2021. He is set to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga next week. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Amari is part of the so-called 3As, a trio of LDP heavyweights also including Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who was named the LDP’s vice president.

A veteran lawmaker who has held a number of Cabinet positions, Amari as economic and fiscal policy minister from December 2012 was responsible for promoting the “Abenomics” policy mix and the 2015 signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal but resigned in January 2016 amid graft allegations.

Amari, at the time, admitted to personally receiving 1 million yen ($9,000) from a construction firm and said one of his secretaries had been given 5 million yen but denied breaking the law prohibiting politicians from accepting cash in exchange for favors.

Prosecutors ultimately decided not to indict them. But opposition parties said Friday they will launch a team to reinvestigate the allegations, while Amari said at a press conference with the other LDP executives that he has already explained his innocence to the best of his ability.

Amari replaced Toshihiro Nikai, known for exercising power behind the scenes during his record five-year tenure.

Kishida also met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the the party’s junior partner Komeito, to confirm their parties will continue to form a coalition government and vow cooperation in the general election, which is expected to be held in early or mid-November.

Kishida is all but guaranteed to be installed as the new prime minister when parliament convenes for an extraordinary session on Monday, given the ruling coalition controls both chambers.

“We have to go forward with economic measures to protect people’s livelihoods, jobs, society and the economy,” he said at an LDP meeting on Friday.

Takaichi, a former internal affairs minister who lost the LDP leadership vote in her bid to become Japan’s first female prime minister, also has close ties with Abe, holding similar conservatives views.

As chairwoman of the Policy Research Council, a role she previously held from 2012 to 2014, Takaichi will be responsible for drawing up the party’s campaign pledges for the general election. At the press conference, she said amending the postwar pacifist Constitution will be one of the pillars of the LDP platform.

Tatsuo Fukuda, 54, a relative greenhorn serving only his third term in the House of Representatives, is set to become chairman of the General Council, the LDP’s decision-making organ.

Both Fukuda’s father and grandfather are former prime ministers, Yasuo Fukuda and the late Takeo Fukuda.

Kishida had said he will strike a good balance of young and veteran lawmakers in choosing his executive lineup.

The appointments also appeared to be aimed at rewarding groups that backed him in the LDP leadership vote. Amari is a member of the Aso faction, and Fukuda belongs to the faction headed by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, over which Abe exerts strong influence despite no longer being an official member.

Toshiaki Endo, 71, a former minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, was named head of the Election Strategy Committee, while vaccination minister Taro Kono, 58, who faced off against Kishida in the runoff vote, will head the Public Relations Headquarters.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s new executives, (from R) policy chief Sanae Takaichi, Secretary General Akira Amari, leader Fumio Kishida, General Council chairman Tatsuo Fukuda and Election Strategy Committee head Toshiaki Endo, pose for a photo at the party headquarters in Tokyo on Oct. 1, 2021. (Kyodo)

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