Fumio Kishida was re-elected Wednesday as Japan's prime minister by parliament after the ruling coalition won the general election last month, with his government making a fresh start to the work of reviving the coronavirus-hit economy and reducing income disparities.
Kishida retained the lineup of his first Cabinet, formed on Oct. 4 when he took office, except for naming a new foreign minister -- Yoshimasa Hayashi, a former education minister known for his close ties to China.
The government is set to finish mapping out stimulus measures next week to ease the impact of the pandemic, including cash handouts for households with children or struggling to make ends meet.
Touching on the coronavirus, stimulus measures and foreign policy challenges, Kishida said Japan is in a "precarious situation" that requires political leadership to get through.
"I will give my all to implement policies with a sense of urgency," he told a press conference in the evening.
On the first day of a three-day special parliamentary session, Kishida was re-elected as prime minister with 297 votes in the 465-member House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber. He also garnered 141 votes in the 245-member House of Councillors.
Kishida had doubled as foreign minister since naming the previous holder of the post, Toshimitsu Motegi, as the Liberal Democratic Party's secretary general earlier this month to replace Akira Amari, who was unexpectedly defeated in his single-seat district in the Oct. 31 lower house election before securing a seat through the proportional representation system.
Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani was named Kishida's special adviser on human rights issues. Nakatani is a leading advocate of introducing sanctions on foreign government officials believed to be human rights offenders, similar to those under the U.S. Magnitsky Act.
The lower house elected Hiroyuki Hosoda, a former chief Cabinet secretary, as its speaker and picked as vice speaker Banri Kaieda, a former industry minister and a member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will succeed Hosoda as the chair of the LDP's largest faction, which he left in 2012 to become the country's leader.
After first being named prime minister, Kishida was forced to quickly dissolve the lower house for an election less than two weeks after taking office, with lower house members' terms expiring Oct. 21.
The decision gave a boost to Kishida and his party toward delivering on their policies as the LDP secured a comfortable majority in the lower house together with its coalition ally Komeito, although Amari's defeat in the single-seat district has cast a shadow over the party ahead of an upper house election next summer.
Kishida has vowed to implement a "new capitalism" that will put the world's third-largest economy on a growth track while redistributing wealth to the middle class.
In the press conference, he vowed to encourage Japanese firms to raise pay including through tax incentives and focus on improving work conditions for care workers, nursery school staff and nurses in particular.
Kishida said the government aims to secure funding for its stimulus measures by passing a supplementary budget, expected to be worth more than 30 trillion yen ($265 billion), later this year.
The package is expected to feature handouts of 100,000 yen in cash and vouchers to households with children aged 18 or younger, as well as resumption of the "Go To Travel" program in an effort to prop up the domestic tourism industry.
A House of Representatives plenary session convenes on Nov. 10, 2021, in Tokyo. (Kyodo)
To prepare for another potential wave of infections, Kishida said the government will procure 1.6 million doses of orally-administered COVID-19 medicine as well as secure more hospital beds and begin giving out vaccine booster shots in December.
He also said within the year the government plans to conduct a study into monitoring tourists from abroad in preparation for easing Japan's border controls.
On the diplomatic front, Kishida is seeking to visit the United States for a summit with President Joe Biden by the year-end after the two had a brief conversation at a U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, earlier this month.
Facing a slew of security challenges including from an increasingly assertive China and North Korea, Kishida said Japan will bolster defenses including against missile threats and cyberattacks as it reviews its national security strategy.
The LDP won 261 seats in the lower house in the latest election, 15 fewer than it previously held but enough to effectively control all standing committees and force through legislation if it desires. Komeito went from 29 to 32.
The CDPJ fell from 110 to 96 while one of the opposition groups it allied with, the Japanese Communist Party, dropped from 12 to 10 as their strategy of unifying candidates in order to secure the anti-LDP vote failed to bear fruit.
Despite the ruling coalition's victory, Jun Azumi, the CDPJ's head of parliamentary affairs, said Wednesday on a program on public broadcaster NHK that "there are plenty of people dissatisfied with politics right now as social disparities have grown."
On the last day of the special session Friday, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano is expected to step down over the election loss.
The CDPJ is set to hold its leadership election on Nov. 30 with campaigning starting on Nov. 19, party sources said.
Chinami Nishimura, a former senior vice health minister, said Wednesday she will consider throwing her hat into the ring. Junya Ogawa, a former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs, and Hiroshi Ogushi, a former parliamentary vice minister for finance, have also suggested their willingness to run.
Several other lawmakers, including former land minister Sumio Mabuchi, Kenta Izumi, the CDPJ's policy chief, and Kenji Eda, acting leader of the party, have also been floated as a possible successor to Edano.
Japan PM Kishida's new Cabinet lineup
The following is the lineup of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's new Cabinet formed Wednesday.