FirstFT: The fight to reshape Japanese politics

Liberal Democratic Party of Japan updates

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Yoshihide Suga’s abrupt resignation as Japan’s prime minister has set off a battle to succeed him that will pit an increasingly frustrated younger generation of politicians against an old guard fighting to maintain the status quo.

Analysts say the outcome of the leadership race could be a turning point for Japanese politics if the Covid-19 crisis and the threat to the ruling Liberal Democratic party’s long grip on power trigger a contest that is not decided by traditional factional politics.

The LDP will choose its next leader on September 29 through an electoral college, with its 383 MPs holding half of the votes and regional party officials making up the rest. Whoever wins will lead the party in a general election that must be held by November 30 and is expected to focus on the pandemic.

Taro Kono, 58, and Fumio Kishida, 64, two former foreign ministers, have emerged as the leading contenders, with the former expected to usher in a new group of younger political leaders who have been shut out of senior cabinet posts and the latter seen as the continuity candidate.

  • Opinion: Suga’s abrupt exit threatens return of volatility to Japanese politics, writes Robin Harding. Leo Lewis outlines the top six challenges that Suga leaves for Japan’s next prime minister.

Five more stories in the news

1. Global dealmaking set to break records A frantic summer of dealmaking has put 2021 on track to break records, with almost $4tn of deals already agreed since the start of the year, as companies rush to exploit cheap financing and bumper profits.

2. UK private schools face curbs on China links British independent schools face fresh pressures on expanding their links with China as the authorities tighten restrictions on foreign influence in the education system and seek to more than halve the number of children educated privately.

3. Taliban battles resistance fighters Fighting is raging in Afghanistan’s isolated Panjshir Valley, the last stronghold of resistance to the Taliban, as the Islamist group maintains a military offensive to pacify the last territory holding out against its rule.

4. UAE eases residency rules in drive to lure foreign investment The United Arab Emirates has launched 50 economic initiatives aimed at making the country more competitive as it seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy, including a drive to attract $150bn in overseas investment within nine years.

5. Zuma set for early prison release on medical parole Jacob Zuma is to be released early from prison after the former South African president was found eligible for medical parole two months after being jailed for contempt of court — a sentence that sparked the country’s worst post-apartheid violence.

Coronavirus digest

  • Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine may offer longer-lasting protection than Pfizer’s, new research suggests.

  • “Zero Covid” strategies in Asia-Pacific are becoming ever harder to sustain, our editorial board writes.

  • sharp slowdown in US jobs growth precludes the possibility that the Federal Reserve will announce plans this month to begin scaling back its pandemic-era stimulus, economists say.

  • The UK moved closer to giving Covid jabs to younger teenagers on Friday after the government’s vaccine advisory body ceded authority on the decision to the country’s top medical officers.

Sign up to our Coronavirus Business Update email for a regular briefing on how the pandemic is affecting markets, global business and our workplaces.

The day ahead

US pandemic jobless aid ends The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programme is set to expire today after Congress extended it twice. Other jobless benefits are also set to end, leaving nearly 10m people strapped for cash at a time when Covid-19 cases are rising again.

MH17 murder trial resumes The Hague resumes its trial in absentia of four people charged with murder in the 2015 downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight that killed 298 people when it crashed in Ukraine. Investigators have appealed to Russians for information related to the crash. (AP)

Airline traffic figures Norwegian Air, which completed a financial restructuring in May, and easyJet each publish monthly traffic figures today. easyJet last month appointed City veteran Stephen Hester as chair as it attempts to emerge from a brutal period for the airline industry.

What else we’re reading and listening to

Developing countries provide fertile ground for crypto While European and US regulators have issued stark warnings about the cryptocurrency’s dangers, in the developing world there are signs that digital currencies are quietly building deeper roots. Here’s how bitcoin mining uses more electricity than some countries. (FT, NYT)

Asia accounts for half of all cryptocurrency users. Chart showing number of worldwide crypto users (m). Asia has 160m users

Not just CEOs should benefit from equity ownership Can incentives be redesigned to produce outcomes that satisfy both shareholders and other stakeholders? In the long term, doing the right thing by employees, customers and the environment builds value for shareholders, writes Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

FT Weekend Podcast: The good life with top chefs In the first episode of the FT Weekend podcast, host Lilah Raptopoulos talks to Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm and Chez Panisse’s legendary Alice Waters to discover how the world’s top chefs are finding purpose beyond their restaurants. Listen here. Behind the scenes with Lilah:

“The pandemic reminded us that awards and prestige are not rewarding measures of being good, and it pushed chefs to take bigger risks, think of how they can do good in bolder, more creative ways.”

Mohsin Hamid on Afghanistan — and the case against wars As the latest calamitous foreign intervention ends, the Lahore-based novelist warns against a pivot to a new conflict. “The end of a war ought not to be a time to adjust our focus to the next war. The end of a war ought to be a time to focus on peace,” Hamid writes.

How not to waste your life Most approaches to time management, not to mention most allegedly time-saving technologies, make things worse. They pitch us into a futile struggle to deny the truth of our limitations and avoid the discomfort of staring our finitude in the face. So, how should we spend the time we have, asks Oliver Burkeman.

Oliver Burkeman: ‘A truly practical approach to making the best use of time demands that we stop trying to deny the undeniable’
Oliver Burkeman: ‘A truly practical approach to making the best use of time demands that we stop trying to deny the undeniable’ © Lucas Varela

Work & careers

Recruitment is widely outsourced to companies that scour websites for potential hires. An array of digital tools using voice recognition, body language software and the like are used to allegedly predict good recruits. But we have very little idea if these strategies work, writes Pilita Clark, so it is mad to use an algorithm to hire a person.

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