Kono seen as top contender as Japan PM race set to start By Reuters
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – Candidates to become Japan’s prime minister officially launch their campaigns on Friday, with popular vaccine minister Taro Kono expected to be the top contender to replace Yoshihide Suga.
The leadership race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took an unexpected turn two weeks ago when Suga said he would step down https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-ruling-party-execs-meet-pm-suga-struggles-ahead-election-2021-09-03, setting off a heated fight.
By virtue of their party’s majority at the lower house parliament, the winner will be elected prime minister.
A public perception that Suga mishandled COVID-19 has damaged the LDP’s reputation. His one-year tenure has left party members looking for fresh faces to lead them in the general elections in less than two months.
The popular Kono https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/self-belief-strategy-japans-taro-kono-upends-race-next-premier-2021-09-13, whose resume https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/five-facts-about-japan-prime-minister-hopeful-taro-kono-2021-09-10 is studded with jobs including the foreign and defence portfolios, faces off against former foreign minister Fumio Kishida https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-vaccines-minister-kono-favoured-next-pm-opinion-polls-2021-09-13, Sanae Takaichi https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-lawmaker-takaichi-announces-run-party-leadership-replace-pm-suga-2021-09-08, who held the internal affairs ministry post, and Seiko Noda https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-noda-former-gender-equality-minister-joins-pm-race-2021-09-16, a former minister for gender equality.
LDP grassroots members will vote with lawmakers, which is a change from last year.
The media-savvy, U.S.-educated Kono, at 58 on the younger side for a Japanese premier, is widely seen as the frontrunner due to his popularity with the public, who regularly choose him as their favourite https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-vaccines-minister-kono-leads-opinion-poll-succeeding-suga-2021-09-12 for prime minister. Investors https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-investors-raise-bets-kono-leadership-race-2021-09-13 have also recently warmed to Kono at Kishida’s expense.
His chances were bolstered this week when LDP heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-ldps-ishiba-formally-announces-support-pm-contender-kono-2021-09-15, who is popular with the party rank and file and had been considering his own candidacy, threw his support behind Kono.
Kono is known for being a rebel, so elders within the LDP’s faction-ridden LDP might favor the 64-year-old Kishida. He hails from one party’s more dovish factions and may have a better track record at building consensus than Kono.
Takaichi (60), who wants to be Japan’s first woman premier, is a disciple and member of LDP’s conservative wing.
Noda (60), who entered the race after receiving the backing of 20 legislators, is considered a distant possibility. She could make it more difficult for one candidate in the first round to win the majority.
On economic policy https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/key-economic-policy-stances-japans-next-pm-candidates-2021-09-10, where Japan is struggling to recover from successive waves of the coronavirus, Kono wants any further stimulus https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-politics/update-2-japan-pm-contender-kono-wants-stimulus-to-focus-on-energy-5g-idUKL1N2QI04A to prioritise renewable energy and expansion of 5G networks, while Kishida says Japan should strive for a new form of capitalism to reduce income disparity https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/former-japanese-minister-sanae-takaichi-seek-party-leadership-opening-prospect-2021-09-08.
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