Japanese Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Taro Kono, who is in charge of overseeing the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program, yesterday officially announced his candidacy to lead the ruling party and, by extension, become the next prime minister.
Kono told a news conference that he would be an empathetic leader who “laughs, and cries together” with the Japanese people.
Kono becomes the third candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which opened up last week when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that he would step down.
Kono appears to have an edge over former Japanese minister of foreign affairs Fumio Kishida and former Japanese minister of internal affairs and communications Sanae Takaichi in the race.
Nearly one-third of respondents in a poll by domestic media last week said Georgetown University-educated Kono, 58, was the most suitable to succeed Suga.
Kono said that he had informed Suga of his intention to run several hours before the news conference at which he made the formal announcement.
The winner of the Sept. 29 vote of grass-roots party members and its lawmakers is virtually assured to be prime minister because the LDP has a majority in parliament’s lower house.
The new leader would then steer the party in a lower house election that must be held by Nov. 28.
Lawmakers are counting on the new leader to boost the party’s support after Suga’s ratings hit record lows.
Kishida is reasonably popular and can count on the support of his faction of the party, while Takaichi, hoping to become Japan’s first female prime minister, has support on the party’s conservative flank, including that of influential former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
One remaining question is whether former Japanese minister of defense Shigeru Ishiba, who is also well-liked among party members, would run on his own or back Kono.
While Suga’s support was undermined by his haphazard handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kono, who has been in charge of a rocky vaccination rollout, has remained popular, particularly among younger voters.
That is partly thanks to his ability to reach out to the public through Twitter, where he has 2.3 million followers — a rarity in heavily scripted Japanese politics dominated by older men less adept with social media.
Some in the LDP feel Kono is too young, and their concerns include his lone-wolf style in a system that runs on consensus and an outspoken streak that can occasionally see him challenge the party line.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
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FREE-FOR-ALL CONTEST: Taro Kono’s popular support means that he ‘probably has the edge, but if he has a lead, it’s a very vulnerable one,’ an Asia expert said The campaign to become Japan’s next prime minister began yesterday, with four candidates vying for leadership of the ruling party in an unusually close race. In televised speeches, the candidates set out their priorities, from boosting Japan’s digital prowess to addressing the falling birthrate. Among them are two women hoping to lead a nation that has never had a female prime minister, although both are considered long shots. The race follows Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s shock announcement that he would not run for head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Whoever the party picks in a Sept. 29 vote is to contest
PLANNING TO REOPEN: Amid 1,607 new COVID-19 cases, the country is making a shift away from lockdowns, acknowledging that outbreaks will happen Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases yesterday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases. Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated, 46 percent nationwide. “We will do so cautiously, but make no mistake, we are opening this place