Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party to hold leadership election

Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will vote for a new party head today after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s August

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Photo: Philip Fong/Pool via REUTERS

Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will vote for a new party head today after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s August announcement that he would be abdicating his office for health reasons.

Since the LDP maintains a majority in Japan’s parliament, it is expected that the elected party chief will serve the remainder of Abe’s term until the next general election. Leading contenders to replace Abe include Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a strong Abe supporter, and former minister of defence Shigeru Ishiba, an internal party rival with a history of criticism of the prime minister.

An important policy area where the leading candidates diverge is regional security. Suga believes that Japan should maintain its commitment to an open and uninhibited Asia-Pacific while continuing to strengthen its relationship with the US. Minister Ishiba, in contrast, envisages a NATO-like security blanket, a security cooperative of like-minded countries to counteract regional threats.

While Suga’s regional security policy is a continuation of the norm, the implications of pursuing Ishiba’s plan would affect the LDP’s overall foreign policy strategy moving forward. More specifically, while establishing a security arrangement may prove advantageous for Japan’s defence, it will risk isolating and antagonising key security players in the region’s security, mainly China.

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