After Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s shocking announcement of his resignation,the leadership race in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is leading to a turmoil, with a flurry of candidates competing for first place.
Japan’s minister in charge of combating Covid-19 and a popular candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taro Kono, may also gain support from a powerful governing party heavyweight in the campaign for party leader.
Kono has not yet officially announced his candidacy, but according to media reports, his will to run is growing stronger. Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru, popular with grassroots members of the LDP, is considering supporting Mr. Kono instead of running for office, which could significantly increase Mr. Kono’s chances of victory, without citing sources and content.
However when asked about it at a Monday news conference on Japan’s vaccination drive, Mr Kono dodged the question, saying only that if he did run, he would make sure it didn’t interfere with his current responsibilities, which include a vaccine rollout in a country where only about half of the population has been fully immunised.
The 64-year-old Ishibashi, who has received strong support from the general party members in the past, defeated Shinzo Abe, the predecessor of Kan, in the 2012 presidential election. He lost in the round after only lawmakers could vote, and was more unsuccessful in two leadership primaries since then.
According to a questionnaire survey conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, 23% of the respondents said that the Minister for Vaccine Kono was the most suitable for his successor. In a Sunday poll, 31.9% supported Kono. Mr. Kono overwhelmed former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba with 21%. Former Foreign Minister Kishida followed at 12%.
58 years old Mr. Kono is educated at Georgetown University and speaks fluent English. He has attracted a large audience among young voters through his active bilingual social media. He has 2.3 million followers on his Japanese page alone.
Mr. Kono has long been the leader of the prime minister, and he has made no secret of wanting this job, but party leaders do not trust his reputation for outspokenness and unconventionalism. Others think he is too young to be suitable for this job. However, last weekend, a TV network reported that Kono had won Suga’s approval.
According to the media, potential candidates spent a busy weekend meeting with other legislators to discuss their support. Everyone must gather 20 supporters before September 17 to become an official candidate and vote on September 29. If the result is close, there will be a second round of voting, and only the legislator has the right to vote.
There is no clear leader at this time, and the actions of Yoshihide Suga’s predecessor, Mr. Abe, are being closely watched. Abe resigned as prime minister last year due to health issues, but he still maintains influence among the two largest factions in the party and conservative lawmakers. Japanese media reported that Abe will support former Interior Minister Koichi Sanae, who hopes to become Japan’s first female prime minister. However, Monday’s “Yomiuri Shimbun” poll showed that Ms. Gao is behind Mr. Abe by 3%, which is 5%.