Kishida calls for unity as new LDP leader

Kishida Fumio has been elected leader of Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The career politician is now virtually assured to become prime minister, following Suga Yoshihide. Kishida called on the party to unify so that it can achieve its goals and meet the needs of the people it represents.

Kishida made a speech to LDP members of the Lower and Upper House. He said, "Japan continues to face crises. We need to fight against the coronavirus pandemic with firm resolve. And we'll need to hammer out an economic package worth several tens of trillions of yen by the year-end. Beyond that, we also need to handle important challenges related to our country's future. They include adopting a new form of capitalism, realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific and countering a declining birthrate. I will devote myself to tackling these tasks starting today."

Kishida beat Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro by a solid margin in a runoff, winning 257 votes to Kono's 170. That's after the first round ended with just a single vote between them.

Two other party veterans, Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Takaichi Sanae and LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Noda Seiko, also ran.

Kishida campaigned on rebuilding the country's medical system and economy -- both hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

He is vowing to set up temporary COVID-19 hospitals throughout the country so no one has to wait for treatment. Kishida also plans to inject some 90 billion dollars into the science and technology sector.

On Monday, Diet members will elect the country's new prime minister. Kishida is virtually assured to win, as the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito control both Houses of the Diet.