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Can Fumio Kishida Drag the LDP Over the Line?

With Japan’s elections looming on Sunday, the near-permanent ruling party faces a disgruntled public.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Oct. 14. Eugene Hoshiko - Pool/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Japan’s ruling party wobbles in final days before lower house election, U.S. freezes aid to Sudan following coup, and the ASEAN summit takes place in Brunei.

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Kishida’s LDP Slouches Toward Victory

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Japan’s ruling party wobbles in final days before lower house election, U.S. freezes aid to Sudan following coup, and the ASEAN summit takes place in Brunei.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Kishida’s LDP Slouches Toward Victory

Japanese politicians enter their final week of campaigning ahead of lower house elections this Sunday.

The prospect of incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party winning an outright majority in Japan’s House of Representatives looked shaky on Sunday as the party lost an upper house by-election in Shizuoka prefecture to an opposition-backed candidate. Kishida had made a point of campaigning in the area, visiting it twice before the setback.

National opinion polls tell a similar story. A recent survey by broadcaster FNN found that the LDP is on course to lose its outright majority. But even a steep drop in support would not be catastrophic, as the party can rely on Komeito, its junior coalition partner, to make up the difference.

Indeed, Kishida is already managing expectations, setting a target of 233 seats for the LDP (exactly 43 fewer than it had before the election), a number that would give the party a single-seat majority.

Opposition strategy. The LDP’s near-permanent status as Japan’s ruling party appears to have eaten into voter turnout in recent elections, with the past three elections failing to entice more than 60 percent of voters to cast a ballot. Opposition parties will hope to reverse that trend and engineer an upset, with the Constitutional Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party agreeing to a kind of non-aggression pact in single-seat constituencies to avoid splitting the vote against the LDP.

The opposition parties will hope to capitalize on public discontent, where 6 in 10 adults say they don’t have confidence in their national government, according to a Gallup poll.

“New” capitalism. If the LDP is victorious, it could have far-reaching effects on the world’s third-largest economy. Kishida has signaled a break from his predecessors on economic policy, promising an end to “neoliberal” policies and pledging to institute a “new Japanese capitalism” with more focus on wealth distribution.

Even if he wins comfortably on Sunday, it won’t immediately give Kishida free rein to reformulate policy. Upper house elections in the summer of 2022 add another layer of uncertainty, making drastic changes unlikely until then.

In a lengthy profile of Kishida in Foreign Policy, Tobias Harris looks at the difficult road ahead for the Japanese leader. A member of the LDP’s waning liberal faction, Kishida will likely find his inclination toward a “humbler” style of politics at odds with the party’s dominant right wing, and a lackluster showing on Sunday could set Japan’s prime ministerial merry-go-round in motion once again.


What We’re Following Today

Sudan’s coup. Seven people have been killed and 140 injured so far in Sudan as soldiers appeared to fire on those protesting the military coup mounted in the early hours of Monday morning.

Responding to the takeover, the United States has frozen $700 million in direct aid to Sudan and has not ruled out sanctions, with State Department spokesperson Ned Price saying the United States was “willing to resort to any and all appropriate measures to hold accountable those who may be attempting to derail the will, the aspirations of the Sudanese people.” The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss the issue today.

The ASEAN summits. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) holds its biannual summit today in Brunei, with meetings among its 10 members as well as regional powers on the two-day schedule. The summit is notable for the absence of Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who was excluded from proceedings following a decision made by ASEAN foreign ministers earlier this month. U.S. President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation in today’s virtual ASEAN-U.S. summit, the first time an American president has done so since Donald Trump in 2017. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will lead China’s delegation for the ASEAN-China summit, also taking place today. 

China-Taliban talks. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, today, the highest-level meeting between China and Afghanistan’s new rulers since the group took control of Kabul in August. Wang last met the Taliban when he hosted Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, now Afghan deputy prime minister, in China’s northern city of Tianjin in July.


Keep an Eye On

Canada’s new cabinet. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce a new cabinet today following a muddled victory in September’s snap election. Little is known about the cabinet’s makeup ahead of its unveiling. Chrystia Freeland is expected to remain as deputy prime minister and finance minister. Canadian reports suggest Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan may lose his position after coming under pressure from the Conservative Party over his handling of military sexual misconduct claims.

Sisi lifts restrictions. Egypt has lifted a state of emergency in place since 2017 following the bombings of two Coptic churches. Emergency measures had been renewed every three months since, but on Monday President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he would remove restrictions, as the country had become “an oasis of security and stability in the region.”


Odds and Ends

A man under house arrest in Italy has asked police to send him to prison, as he “could no longer cope with the forced cohabitation with his wife,” Italian police in Tivoli said on Sunday.

The man, a 30-year-old from Albania, had been given a sentence of several years for drug-related offenses but had only served a few months before fleeing his home. By pleading his case at a local police station, the man was immediately arrested for violating his house arrest and will now face prison time.

“He was living at home with his wife and family. It was not going well anymore,” Francesco Giacomo Ferrante, a local police captain, told AFP. “He said: ‘Listen, my home life has become a hell, I can’t take it anymore, I want to go to prison.’”

Correction, Oct. 26, 2021: ASEAN has 10 members; a previous version of this article misstated this number.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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