Sanae Takaichi, 60, said she will run for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party leadership as it goes to the polls on Sept. 29, Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.
If the party wins the general elections, the winner of the party leadership would take up the prime minister’s post.
Takaichi’s bid for the party leadership comes after incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week unexpectedly announced he would step down from the premiership and not seek the party leadership.
A candidate has to get the support of at least 20 party lawmakers to stand for the party helm.
Takaichi, a Cabinet member under former Premier Shinzo Abe, said her focus will remain on “monetary easing, fiscal spending during emergencies and investing in crisis management, including defense capabilities and disaster response.”
She held the portfolio of internal affairs and communications and also served as the party’s policy chief.
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and vaccine czar Taro Kono are two other candidates vying for the party’s top post.
Kishida said his government would “boost people’s income and narrow disparities through redistribution of wealth.”
The ruling party elections, set to be followed by general elections by Nov. 20, come at a time when the country of 126 million people is hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan has reported 1.6 million cases, including 16,436 deaths.
Battling an increasingly aging population, the country has faced criticism over its lagging vaccination campaign.
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