Japan's COVID-19 vaccine minister gains strong public support to be next PM
Tokyo: Japanese voters strongly support Taro Kono, minister in charge of fighting COVID-19, becoming the next prime minister, a second opinion poll said on Monday (September 6), as potential candidates prepare announcements that they will contest the leadership of the ruling party.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga`s shock Friday announcement that he was stepping down has thrown a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race set for September 29 into disarray, with a wide array of candidates set to vie for the top job.
The LDP`s majority in parliament guarantees the winner will become prime minister.
According to the survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, 23% of respondents said Kono, the minister in charge of vaccines, was the most suitable person to take over - echoing a Sunday poll that had 31.9% favouring Kono.
Kono held a narrow edge over former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, with 21%. Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, who has already formally announced his candidacy, trailed with 12%.
A former foreign and defence minister, the 58-year-old Kono, educated at Georgetown University and a fluent English speaker, has built a popular following among young voters with an active social media presence in two languages, with 2.3 million followers on his Japanese page alone.
Kono has long been a favoured candidate for prime minister and has made no secret of wanting the job, but party elders are wary of him for his outspokenness and reputation as a maverick. Others feel he is still too young for the job.
Over the weekend, though, one TV network reported that Kono had gained Suga`s backing.
With no clear front-runner at this point, the actions of Suga`s predecessor Shinzo Abe are being closely watched. Abe quit the premiership last year due to ill health but still retains influence in the party`s two largest factions and among conservative lawmakers.
Japanese media has reported that Abe will be backing former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, who hopes to become Japan`s first woman prime minister.
But Monday`s Yomiuri survey had Takaichi trailing badly at 3% - just behind Abe himself, at 5%.
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