TOKYO: Two leading candidates to become Japan’s next prime minister denied on Saturday (Sep 18) 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 Sep 29 party poll to succeed Prime Mininster Yoshihide Suga, who said two weeks ago he would step down amid tanking voter ratings, is almost certain to become premier because of the LDP’s lower house majority.
Surveys of voters show Kono is their top choice, a key factor ahead of a looming general election. But the social-media savvy, US-educated former foreign and defence minister also has an image as a maverick that worries many elders in the LDP.
Contenders need to attract votes from both grassroots party members and younger lawmakers likely to be swayed by popularity ratings as well as party bosses who still have clout, although less than in the past.
Long seen as a critic of nuclear power, 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.
“As I explained before, we should stop the use of coal, increase energy conservation and renewable energy and nuclear power can be used to fill the gap.”
Source: Channel News Asia