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Kishida set to be re-elected Prime Minister of Japan in parliamentary vote

TOKYO (AP) – Fumio Kishida is expected to be re-elected as Prime Minister of Japan on Wednesday after passing the first major test of his leadership in the last election.

Elected just over a month ago by parliament, Kishida called a quick election where he won enough seats in the 465-member lower house – the most powerful in Japan’s two-chamber Diet – to keep a free hand to push legislation through Parliament. He sees the Oct. 31 victory as a mandate from voters for his weeks-old government to tackle the pandemic-stricken economy, virus measures and other challenges.

In the first session of parliament since the elections, Kishida is due for re-election and then will form his second cabinet in a month, reappointing most of his ministers.

In a formality earlier Wednesday, Kishida’s first cabinet resigned en masse.

Kishida was chosen by the Liberal Democrats as a safe and conservative choice a month ago. They feared heavy electoral losses if the unpopular Yoshihide Suga remained in power. Suga stepped down after just a year in office as his popularity plunged following criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his insistence on hosting the Tokyo Olympics despite fears of a wave of the virus.

Experts say Kishida’s victory showed that Japanese voters chose stability over change, even though many did not necessarily support the ruling party’s ultra-conservative policies and authoritarian approach. He was also helped by a botched united front of opposition parties that pushed back many of their traditional supporters due to the inclusion of the left-wing Japanese Communist Party.

Better than expected election results could give Kishida’s government more power and time to work on campaign promises, including controlling COVID-19, economic revitalization and strengthening Japan’s defense capacity.

Kishida’s power can also be enhanced by changes in his Cabinet. A key political expert from his faction, former Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, will be the new Foreign Minister, while former Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will rise to the ruling party’s No.2 position.

Motegi voted for Kishida in the party leadership race and will replace party heavyweight Akira Amari, who resigned from his post due to his unimpressive election result due to his previous corruption scandal.

Kishida promises to create an enhanced growth cycle and better economic distribution to increase income as part of his “new capitalism” economic policy.

As a former foreign minister, Kishida will continue to prioritize the Japan-U.S. Security alliance and promote a vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” with other democracies, including including Quad Dialogue members, the United States, Australia and India.

Kishida stresses the importance of a stronger military amid concerns about China’s growing power and influence and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

He opposed changes to a law that requires married couples to adopt only one last name, forcing most women to give up their maiden name. Liberal Democrats are widely seen as opposed to gender equality and diversity.

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