TOKYO, Sept. 18 (Reuters) – Candidates for Japan’s next prime minister all said they would have better policies to tackle the pandemic and narrow the income gap during Friday’s televised debates, but they were divided on diversity issues, from same-sex marriage to married couples with separate names.
Whoever wins the Liberal Democratic Party presidency on September 29 will become prime minister due to the LDP’s majority in the lower house of parliament, and the campaign started in earnest on Friday with a series of televised debates.
Widely regarded as the leading candidate, vaccine minister Taro Kono, 58, recently moved away from mainstream thought within the Conservative Party by declaring he was in favor of introducing same-sex marriage, and during a debate broadcast by TV Asahi, he questioned his main candidate on his position on the issue.
Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, 64, responded by saying that he had “not come to the point of accepting same-sex marriage”.
The other two candidates running are both women; Seiko Noda, a 61-year-old former gender equality minister, and Sanae Takaichi, 60, an ultra-conservative former interior minister.
Although they are not considered favorites, the contest is still considered unpredictable, and if either of them were to achieve a surprise victory, they would become the first female prime minister of Japan.
The four candidates will line up for another televised debate on Saturday as they fight to broaden support for a party that has suffered a sharp drop in approval ratings due to the handling of the pandemic under Premier’s leadership. Minister Yoshihide Suga.
One of the most controversial issues separating applicants is whether to allow married couples to have separate surnames.
Women’s advocates, including lawmakers from all walks of life, want women to be able to choose the name they use, but that’s not possible under Japanese law.
Takaichi, the more conservative of the two candidates, said during a debate on Fuji TV that the country should maintain the existing system to avoid confusion between couples and their children with different surnames.
The two male candidates took a different stance. Kono supports allowing married couples to have different last names, while Kishida said public opinion should be understood before parliament decides.
Report from Ju-min Park; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore
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