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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party launched a series of study groups last week to map out visions for Japan once the coronavirus epidemic subsides.

The creation of the groups is viewed by some in the party as being linked to the race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose term as president of the LDP is slated to end in September 2021.

One of the groups was set up under the party’s Policy Research Council, chaired by former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

“The fight against the coronavirus will persist over a long period, and it’s a lawmaker’s duty to consider a future beyond that,” Kishida said Thursday during the first meeting of the group, which is being called a strategic task force for creating new international order.

Akira Amari, chairman of the LDP’s Research Commission on the Tax System, was appointed to a senior post.

The appointment of Amari, who is close to Abe, was aimed at helping Kishida gain cooperation from the party faction Amari belongs to in the next LDP leadership election, according to Kishida aides.

As the faction is led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, the appointment may also signal that Kishida is backed by Aso, the aides said.

Kishida appears to have already started to consolidate his political base more than a year before the party leadership poll.

Meanwhile, another study group is led by former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, chairman of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee, and former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, executive deputy secretary-general of the party.

About 30 people from a range of LDP factions attended the group’s preparatory meeting. At the meeting, the group decided to have discussions on a variety of challenges the nation may face in a post-coronavirus era, including educational reform and constitutional amendment.

“We don’t intend to compete (with Kishida) but hope to produce synergistic effects,” Shimomura told reporters.

Shimomura and Inada, along with economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, are members of a party faction that Abe has belonged to.

Many in the party faction, however, believe that Shimomura, Inada and Nishimura have no clear advantages in the race to become Abe’s successor.

Shimomura and Inada apparently want to increase their presence through the launch of the study group, LDP sources said.

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