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Japan PM candidates differ on same-sex, women rights issues By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A combination picture shows the contenders for the presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Japan’s State Minister In Charge Of Administrative Reform Taro Kono, Japan’s former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan’s

TOKYO (Reuters) – Candidates to become Japan’s next prime minister all said they would have better policies to fight the pandemic and reduce the income gap during television debates on Friday, but they were split on diversity issues from same-sex marriage to married couples having separate surnames.

Because the Liberal Democratic Party has the majority in lower parliament, the winner of the Liberal Democratic Party presidency will be the next prime minister. On Friday, campaigning kicked off with series of televised debates.

Widely seen as the leading contender, vaccine minister Taro Kono (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/self-belief-strategy-japans-taro-kono-upends-race-next-premier-2021-09-13), 58, recently veered from mainstream thinking in the conservative party by saying he favours the introduction of same-sex marriage, and during a debate broadcast by TV Asahi, he asked his main contender about his stance on the issue.

Fumio Kishida (64) was a 64-year-old former foreign minister. He said that he has not “gotten to accepting same sex marriage.”

The two other candidates (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/potential-candidates-become-japans-next-prime-minister-2021-09-03) in the race are both women; Seiko Noda, a 61-year-old former gender equality minister, and Sanae Takaichi, 60, an ultra-conservative former internal affairs minister.

Although they may not be considered frontrunners, the contest remains unpredictable. If either of them wins unexpectedly they will become Japan’s first woman prime minister.

On Saturday, the four contenders will meet for a second televised debate to try to increase support for a party that suffered an unexpected drop in popularity due to its handling of the pandemic.

One of the most contentious issues between the candidates is whether or not to permit married couples to keep their surnames separate.

Legislators from across political lines and advocates for women want the freedom to select their surname. However, this isn’t possible in Japan.

Takaichi (the more conservative candidate) said that Japan should keep the current system to prevent confusion between couples and children with different names.

Two male candidates took different positions. Kono supports the possibility for married couples to share different surnames. Kishida, however, stated that it was important that parliament hears public opinion.

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