Suga to support Vaccines Minister Taro Kono in LDP leadership race, report says

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Outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga intends to back the People’s Minister responsible for the deployment of immunization in Japan, Taro Kono, in the leadership race of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) later this month, broadcaster Nippon New Network reported on Saturday.

The report comes after Suga’s surprise announcement on Friday that he would step down, paving the way for a new leader to become prime minister.

Suga is expected to stay until his successor is chosen in the party election slated for September 29.

Hours after Suga’s announcement, sources close to Kono said on Friday that he intended to run for the leadership. Kono himself did not declare his candidacy, telling reporters that he wanted to consult with his party colleagues first.

Former Foreign and Defense Minister Kono, 58, is popular among young voters, after gaining support via Twitter, where he has 2.3 million followers – a rarity in male-dominated Japanese politics older and less social media savvy.

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has already thrown his hat in the ring, while several others, including former Home Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi, have expressed interest in participating in the race, making the outcome even more unpredictable. .

According to party rules, candidates must first collect 20 candidacies from members of his Diet to stand for the presidential election.

Kono, who is also minister of administrative and regulatory reform, belongs to one of the main factions of the party led by former Prime Minister Taro Aso, current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Kishida and Takaichi reiterated their intention to run for leadership.

Kishida said his intention to run was “unchanged”.

Takaichi, who would be the first woman president of the PLD if elected, said she “would fight to the end”. She also said she was “appalled” by Suga’s about-face during his candidacy, as he had repeatedly said he would run again.

Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters whether he would run for office was “a blank slate”, adding: “I will consult with my like-minded colleagues and come to a conclusion at the appropriate time.” .

Kishida and Ishiba lost to Suga in last year’s LDP presidential race.

In addition, Hakubun Shimomura, who withdrew from the September 29 elections after being urged by Suga to prioritize his work as the political leader of the PLD to respond to the pandemic, said he may return to the country. race.

Japan had seen six prime ministers in as many years, before the record eight-year tenure of Shinzo Abe, Suga’s predecessor.

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