Do Yokohama Results Spell Downfall of ‘Japanese Joe Biden?’

In Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, the stunning defeat Sunday of the mayoral candidate backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could spell the swift downfall of embattled Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

With many Yokohoma voters choosing Professor of Public Health Takeharu Yamanaka, who won with the backing of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, as a means of registering discontent for the unpopular Suga, talk was mounting Sunday that the prime minister would be challenged for the leadership of the LDP in September.

Already under fire for the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and what many consider clumsy handling of the pandemic, Suga had been expected to call a national election this fall.

But following what is already being interpreted in the press as a repudiation of the prime minister, it is increasingly likely that the LDP’s leaders are nervous about going into a general election with Suga as leader.

The name most heard of as a challenger was that of Fumio Kishida, Japan’s longest-serving post-war foreign minister (2012-17) and a strong advocate of Japan’s re-armament.

Kishida wanted badly to run for LDP leader last fall and thus succeed retiring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But Abe persuaded Kishida to defer to his own choice as a successor, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga. At the time, he reportedly promised Kishida his support for a future bid for the LDP helm.

At 72 and in less than a year as prime minister, Suga is widely considered “Japan’s Joe Biden” — a longtime political insider who was best known as the right-hand man for a charismatic and popular former leader (Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, with 9 years on the job.)

Among those beaten in the eight-candidate mayoral race was incumbent Mayor Hachiro Okonogi, who had the strong backing of the LDP and of Suga (whose constituency within the Japanese parliament is in Yokohama.)

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for The Conservative Digest. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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