Vaccine czar Taro Kono to announce LDP leadership bid Sept. 10 – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Vaccine czar Taro Kono to announce LDP leadership bid Sept. 10

Written by on September 9, 2021

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of Japan’s vaccination efforts, is set to announce his bid to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at a press conference Friday, people familiar with his thinking said Thursday.

The 58-year-old would be the third lawmaker to declare candidacy in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 leadership race after former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former communications minister Sanae Takaichi.

Japan’s administrative reform minister Taro Kono (C), who is also in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations, is pictured in Tokyo on Sept. 9, 2021. (Kyodo)

Kono consistently places high in opinion polls on who is most fit to become prime minister, and had been eyeing a run since Suga abruptly announced his resignation last week amid mounting criticism over his COVID-19 response and declining public approval ratings.

On Thursday, Kono met with Finance Minister Taro Aso, who heads the LDP faction he belongs to, to seek backing for the bid.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso is pictured at the ministry in Tokyo on Sept. 9, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Under party rules, hopefuls are required to first gather 20 nominations from its Diet members to run in the presidential election.

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture to a prominent political family, Kono graduated from Georgetown University in the United States and worked in the private sector before successfully running for the House of Representatives in 1996.

Kono, who doubles as administrative reform minister, has served in a number of Cabinet posts including chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, foreign minister and defense minister.

Considered a reform-minded maverick within the conservative LDP, Kono is known for getting the ball rolling while being less skilled in slowly building consensus.

It would be his second attempt at becoming LDP leader, having made an unsuccessful bid in 2009 after the party was ousted from power in a humiliating defeat in that year’s general election.

The LDP election will effectively decide the next prime minister as the party controls the powerful lower house of parliament.

Related coverage:

3-way LDP race likely as Kishida makes pledges, Takaichi declares bid

Japan eyes convening parliament Oct. 4 to choose new prime minister

Vaccine chief Kono draws flak for blocking Twitter critics

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