• Kyodo

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Major opposition party leaders on Wednesday expected a continuation of the status quo, gearing up to grill Fumio Kishida, the newly elected head of the ruling party, over what he will deliver as he is set to become the country’s prime minister.

Opposition party lawmakers are ratcheting up pressure on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito to ensure enough time for questions to Kishida during an extraordinary parliamentary session from Monday to elect the 64-year-old as prime minister.

“The election showed that the LDP will not and cannot change,” Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters.

“He uses abstract words to explain but hasn’t showed us specifically what he will do,” Edano said.

In the LDP’s presidential election, Kishida defeated vaccination minister Taro Kono in a runoff with the support of many LDP Diet members. The reform-minded Kono is popular among the public and rank-and-file members.

Kishida’s rise to becoming prime minister is almost assured as the ruling coalition controls both chambers of the Diet.

The poor handling of the coronavirus outbreak by outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been eroding public support.

Kishida is pledging to focus on the coronavirus response ahead of a lower house election that must be held this fall, while the opposition bloc is scrambling to become a viable alternative with their own policy platforms.

“What has been called for is a change of government,” said Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party.

“We will put an end to the LDP-Komeito government that has no effective plans or measures to respond to the coronavirus,” Shii said.

Opposition lawmakers are also watching for a rebound in public support for the LDP under Kishida. “We are curious about how swing voters will see the election in which the will of many grassroots members was reversed by (the strength of) Diet members,” one opposition lawmaker said.

The influence of LDP Diet members was larger in the runoff as the number of votes allocated to rank-and-file members was reduced after the first round of voting. Kono won more votes cast by rank-and-file members than Kishida in both rounds.

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