Japan ex-defense minister to challenge Abe as party chief

Former Japanese defence minister and member of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shigeru Ishiba speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on August 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Japan ex-defense minister to challenge Abe as party chief

  • Ishiba has expressed surprise at the dearth of challengers to Abe
  • Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda has reportedly considered running, but lacks support from enough party members

TOKYO: Former Japanese defense minister Shigeru Ishiba on Friday announced a long-shot bid to unseat Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as leader of the country’s ruling party in elections next month.
Abe is widely expected to win another term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party with Ishiba likely to be his only challenger.
Polls suggest the premier is supported by around 70 percent of LDP members and winning the vote would put him on the path to becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister ever.
Despite the odds, 61-year-old Ishiba said he had decided to challenge Abe to “restore confidence in the government, which should be at the service of citizens.”
Earlier this year, Abe’s popularity ratings slumped with his administration mired in two cronyism scandals.
But he has recovered from the rows, and is viewed as a shoo-in to win the internal election next month, which is held every three years.
In 2015 he ran unopposed, and in 2012 he beat four other contenders, including Ishiba, who was then seen as the front-runner.
Ishiba has expressed surprise at the dearth of challengers to Abe.
“It’s a chorus of ‘I won’t run. I support Abe’,” he told a local television station this week.
A defense hawk, Ishiba favors a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution along more radical lines than Abe, and has even controversially suggested Japan should consider having nuclear weapons.
He may well end up being Abe’s sole rival, with another potential challenger, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, already ruling out a bid.
Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda has reportedly considered running, but lacks support from enough party members.


Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl addresses the media before a two-day cabinet meeting in Seggau, Austria, in this January 5, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

  • The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine
  • Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening

VIENNA: The expected attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Saturday’s wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl sparked a row Friday over whether the visit was appropriate.
“How is Austria’s presidency of the EU meant to live up to the government’s own claims of building bridges (between the EU and Russia) and being an honest broker, when Austria’s foreign minister and chancellor are so obviously on one side?” asked MP Andreas Schieder of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe).
SPOe MEP Evelyn Regner said the invite sent a “shameful” image of Austria to its EU partners, branding it “a provocation of European proportions.”
The Greens called for Kneissl’s resignation, pointing out that “Vladimir Putin is the EU’s most aggressive enemy in matters of foreign policy.”
Kneissl, 53, who was nominated for the post by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), will marry businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in a ceremony in a wine-growing village near the southeastern city of Graz.
Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening.
Putin’s attendance was originally described as a “private event” by Kneissl’s office but has since been upgraded to a “working visit.”
Several hundred police officers will take part in the security operation around the wedding.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and FPOe Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are also expected at the ceremony.
In 2016, the FPOe signed a “cooperation pact” with Putin’s United Russia party.
The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The foreign ministry has insisted that Putin’s visit “will not change anything in terms of Austria’s foreign policy positions.”
The invitation has even provoked some criticism from within Kurz’s own OeVP party, with one of its MEPs Othmar Karas saying: “I can’t grasp the logic and the purpose of making such a personal occasion political and open to misuse in this way.”
Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU, notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries.
Kurz’s OeVP and the FPOe have been in coalition together since December after an election campaign in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.