Taro Kono tops opinion poll as most fit to become Japan’s next PM

Sep 06 , 2021. 14 hours ago – 20:00 KYODO NEWS

Combined file photo shows former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and vaccination minister Taro Kono, who doubles as administrative and regulatory reform minister. The two are preparing to run in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election on Sept. 29, 2021, which will effectively determine Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s successor. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – Japan’s administrative reform minister Taro Kono who is also in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations is the most popular pick to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has announced his intention to resign, according to the result of a Kyodo News poll released Sunday.

Kono, known as an outspoken lawmaker adept at social media, gained 31.9 percent of support from respondents in the nationwide telephone survey conducted with 1,071 randomly selected eligible voters on Saturday and Sunday, ahead of former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba with 26.6 percent and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida with 18.8 percent.

They are among the potential contenders in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 presidential election which will effectively pick the next prime minister.

Kishida and former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi have said they will join the race, while the others have yet to announce their decisions.

Suga, who has seen his approval ratings drop to record lows in media polls, said on Friday he will not run in the upcoming LDP leadership race.

On his decision to step down as premier, 56.7 percent said his resignation is a matter of course, with 56.3 percent disapproving of his government’s COVID-19 response since he took office in September last year.

As for the Tokyo Paralympics closing on Sunday, an overwhelming majority were supportive of holding the event despite the capital remaining under a COVID-19 state of emergency, with 69.8 percent saying they were glad the games were held as scheduled and 26.3 percent thinking otherwise.

An equally large portion of the respondents believe the event has been beneficial for society at large as 67.1 percent said they think it will help foster unity.

Past Kyodo News surveys reflected strong public concerns about holding the Olympics and Paralympics at a time when the country is struggling to contain a resurgence of coronavirus infections in Tokyo and many other parts of the country. The Tokyo Games were held following a year of delay due to the pandemic.

The approval rating of Suga’s Cabinet fell to a fresh record low of 30.1 percent in the latest survey, down 1.7 points from the last opinion poll in mid-August. The disapproval rating was at 58.5 percent, up 7.9 points.

Asked which party they plan to vote for under the proportional representation system in the upcoming House of Representatives election, 43.4 percent said the LDP and 17.3 percent said the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Among other parties, 5.7 percent cited the Japanese Communist Party as their choice, followed by 5.6 percent for the Japan Innovation Party and 5.2 percent for the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito.

Cr.KYODO NEWS