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Japan PM candidates deny toning down their views to attract votes

Taro Kono, the cabinet minister in charge of vaccinations, one of the candidates for the presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party speaks during a debate session held by Japan National Press Club September 18, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Two leading candidates to become Japan’s next Prime Minister denied on Saturday that they had toned down their stances on nuclear energy and gender issues to attract conservative backing in a tight ruling party leadership election this month.

The election for leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) pits Vaccine Minister Taro Kono, 58, against former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, 64; Sanae Takaichi, 60, a former Internal Affairs Minister from the party’s most conservative wing, and Seiko Noda, 61, a former Minister for Gender Equality.

The winner of the September 29 party poll to succeed Prime Mininster Yoshihide Suga is almost certain to become premier because of the LDP’s Lower House majority. Surveys of voters show Mr. Kono is their top choice. But the social-media savvy, U.S.-educated former Foreign and Defence Minister also has an image as a maverick that worries many elders in the LDP.

Long seen as a critic of nuclear power, Mr. Kono rejected the suggestion that he had flip-flopped. “What I’ve been saying about an exit from nuclear power is decommissioning quickly nuclear power plants that are reaching retirement and gradually exiting nuclear energy,” he said in a televised debate. “We should stop the use of coal, increase energy conservation and renewable energy and nuclear power can be used to fill the gap.”

Mr. Kishida, a more traditional LDP consensus-builder saddled with a bland image, was asked whether he had back-pedalled over allowing married couples to have separate surnames. Japanese law does not permit that option. Asked about the impression that he had earlier favoured the change, Mr. Kishida said he recognised diversity but that questions remained as to how to treat children’s names under a new system. “At least considering the broad understanding of the people, I think that discussion is necessary now,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:04:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/japan-pm-candidates-deny-toning-down-their-views-to-attract-votes/article36542084.ece

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