With several ministerial stints under his belt, Taro Kono announces bid for leadership of ruling party, premiership
ANKARA (AA) – Japan’s vaccination minister Taro Kono on Friday announced his bid to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The 58-year-old is the third lawmaker of the ruling party to join the race as the LDP prepares to pick Suga’s successor on Sept. 29.
This is Kono’s second bid to become leader of the LDP, following a failed attempt after the 2009 general election.
He currently doubles as minister for administrative reforms in Suga’s Cabinet, having previously served as foreign minister and defense minister under ex-Premier Shinzo Abe.
Suga surprised many when he announced last week that he will not run for re-election as party leader and step down as premier after just a year in office.
A three-way contest is now expected between Kono, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and ex-Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, who is vying to be the first woman to become Japan’s prime minister.
A candidate needs the support of at least 20 LDP lawmakers to become party leader.
With the LDP holding a parliamentary majority, the winner of the party election is widely expected to become Japan’s leader when the next premier is elected in November.
‘Moving Japan forward’
Addressing a news conference, Kono said he will give top priority to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic while “moving Japan forward,” Kyodo News reported.
The government has been under fire for its handling of the pandemic in Japan, where more than 1.6 million cases and over 16,600 fatalities have been reported to date.
There has also been much criticism over the slow pace of vaccinations in the country of 126 million people, which has an increasingly aging population.
“We have to overcome this crisis. I want to create a warm society where people can lean on each other,” Kono was quoted as saying.
Kono, who recently released a book titled Move Japan Forward, belongs to a prominent political family from the coastal Kanagawa province.
His father Yohei Kono served as speaker of Japan’s House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the country’s bicameral parliament.
The younger Kono was elected to the lower house on his first try in 1996 after returning from the US, where he studied and also briefly worked.