By-elections that might decide Kishida’s hasty election call 2023

Four Lower House by-elections will test Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Liberal Democratic party.

The April 23 battles, together with an Upper House by-election in Oita Prefecture, may determine whether Kishida enters next month’s Group of Seven meeting with clear political skies and a tailwind or under a cloud with party opponents questioning his leadership.

These may also impact the prime minister’s decision to hold a quick election this year.

Kishida’s popularity has risen in several media surveys after his unexpected March 21 journey to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On March 27, TBS reported 44.3% support, up six points from the previous month. Kishida received 38% support in a weekend Asahi Shimbun survey, down two points from last month.

LDP officials want to win at least three of the five April 23 by-elections to retain seats. Achieving that target would undoubtedly make intraparty rivals less probable in the weeks ahead, but it is uncertain if it would encourage the prime leader to call a quick election later this year. On March 29, Kishida denied considering dissolving parliament and holding a snap election.

Kishida’s tenure as LDP president ends in 2024, although the next general election isn’t due until 2025.

The four Lower House by-elections are in Yamaguchi, Wakayama, and Chiba prefectures. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was killed in July while campaigning for an Upper House candidate in Yamaguchi No. 4.

Shinji Yoshida, 38, is the LDP’s Abe successor. Komeito back.

Constitutional Democratic Party member Yoshifu Arita is his biggest opponent (CDP). Arita is a journalist noted for his criticism of the Unification Church. Tetsuya Yamagami, Abe’s suspected assassin, told investigators he was outraged about Abe’s links to the controversial religious sect.

Yoshida promises to maintain Abe’s legacy if elected. Several Abe supporters, including his widow, Akie, who spoke at Yoshida’s campaign office opening last month, endorse him.

“I’m pleased (Yoshida) ran,” she remarked.

Arita is running to give voters an option. He will discuss Abenomics and the Unification Church’s political involvement.

As Abe’s brother Nobuo Kishi resigned in February owing to sickness, the Yamaguchi No. 2 by-election was necessitated. Nobuchiyo Kishi, Kishi’s eldest son, runs for LDP. Hideo Hiraoka, a non-partisan former justice minister, is his biggest opponent.

The Yamaguchi elections will be the last under the current district system, forcing one of the four single-seat representatives to seek a seat allocated by proportional representation or another district.

Next general election, Wakayama Prefecture will lose a seat.

Hirofumi Kado, a member of Toshihiro Nikai’s group, is the LDP’s candidate for the Wakayama No. 1 district by-election. Nikai trusts former Lower House member Kado, who lost his position in October 2021.

Nippon Ishin no Kai, which did not run in the two Yamaguchi by-elections, is backing former Wakayama city council member Yumi Hayashi. The Japanese Communist Party supports local party member Hideaki Kunishige.

At least six candidates are standing in the Chiba No. 5 district by-election, including LDP-backed Arfiya Eri, who lost an Upper House campaign last year. She faces CDP-backed Kentaro Yazaki and Nippon Ishin candidate Tomoyasu Kishino.

Eri’s performance is intriguing. In 1990, the Kitakyushu native became a Japanese citizen. Her parents are Uyghur and Uzbek. She studied in America and prioritizes national security.

If she doesn’t get in this time, Eri might be the LDP’s candidate in the next general election if Chiba Prefecture gains one seat.

In Oita Prefecture, former CDP Upper House politician Tadatomo Yoshida is running against LDP-backed entrepreneur Aki Shirasaka. The incumbent, independent Kiyoshi Adachi, who won with CDP and other opposition backing, decided to run for governor, necessitating the by-election. He lost Sunday’s governorship.

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