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Fumio Kishida set to become Japan’s new prime minister

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has elected former foreign minister Fumio Kishida as its new leader.

Mr Kishida’s victory early on Wednesday virtually ensures that he will become the country’s next prime minister within days.

In an acceptance speech, Mr Kishida vowed to lead a transformed party in a general election due within weeks and continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic which has battered Japan’s economy.

But Mr Kishida, who is described as a party consensus builder, is said to lack  popularity among most Japanese. As a result, his latest victory could spell problems for the governing LDP in the election due to be held in November , analysts say.

“The LDP leadership election is over. Let us all face the Lower House and the Upper House elections as one,” Mr Kishida said.

“Our national crisis continues. We need to keeping working hard on the coronavirus response with strong determination, and we need to compile tens of trillions

of yen of stimulus package by the end of the year,” he added.

In a second round run-off vote, Mr Kishida defeated former defence and foreign minister Taro Kono, who is seen as an outspoken maverick.

Two female contenders, Sanae Takaichi, 60, and Seiko Noda, 61, dropped out after the first round.

Mr Kishida — who succeeds unpopular Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who did not seek re-election as party leader after just one year in office — is almost certain to become prime minister at a parliamentary session on October 4 because of the LDP’s majority in the Lower House.

He is expected to form a new cabinet and reshuffle the LDP executive in early October.

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is now expected to hold a general election on November 7 or 14.