Japan's Kishida set to take office, form government

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Japan's incoming prime minister Fumio Kishida is set to formally take office on Monday, forming a government faced with the immediate task of handling the coronavirus pandemic and softening the economic blows it has brought.

Kishida, a former foreign minister with an image as a low-key consensus builder, was chosen last week to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), beating three other contenders to take the post and ultimately, based on the party's majority in parliament, the premiership.

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As the face of the party, the 64-year-old will also lead it through a general election in the face of headwinds generated by criticism of outgoing prime minister Yoshihide Suga's handling of the pandemic that have battered the LDP's support ratings. The election must be held by Nov. 28.

He will form his government after being formally elected prime minister in a special session of parliament.

Kishida's prospective cabinet is expected to be heavy on allies of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, according to media reports, with more than half the posts taken by lawmakers who have never held a cabinet position before.

Finance Minister Taro Aso's brother-in-law, Shunichi Suzuki, is set to replace Aso, while Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe's brother, will retain their posts, media said.

Hirokazu Matsuno, an education minister under Abe, will be named to the key chief cabinet secretary position, while current education minister and Abe ally Koichi Hagiuda is set to become trade and industry minister, the point person on energy policy.

In a sign of the new government's priorities, newly appointed LDP secretary general Akira Amari, another Abe ally, said on Sunday that Japan will compile a large extra budget immediately after the election to ease the economic blow of the pandemic and boost long-term growth in key areas.

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