Japan: Polls show that the Japanese public favors Taro Kono, the cabinet minister who oversees Japan’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, to be the next prime minister. He is ahead of other candidates in the race to lead the governing Liberal Democratic Party — which, in effect, is the race to become prime minister.
Party members will vote Wednesday to choose a successor to Yoshihide Suga, the current prime minister and party leader.
But in the back rooms, Kono, 58, does not have nearly as much support. His reputation as a nonconformist and his left-leaning views on social issues put him out of step with the party’s conservative elders, who hold considerable sway.
Details: Kono has courted public opinion, posting playful tweets and even personally responding to vaccine questions online. He opposes nuclear power and supports same-sex marriage, positions that put him on the wrong side of many party members.
Competitors: Sanae Takaichi, 60, a hard-line conservative, would be Japan’s first female prime minister. She has strong backing from the party’s right wing and from former prime minister Shinzo Abe. Many party members think Fumio Kishida, 64, a moderate with tepid support in the polls, is the safest choice.
The pandemic: Japan is ending its state-of-emergency measures on Thursday as the number of new daily coronavirus cases has dropped and the vaccine rollout has reached nearly 60 percent of the population.