San Francisco Chronicle

Chief of vaccine drive vies to be next prime minister

- By Mari Yamaguchi Mari Yamaguchi is an Associated Press writer.

TOKYO — Japan’s outspoken vaccinatio­ns minister, Taro Kono, announced Friday that he is running to become the head of the governing party, who usually is chosen prime minister, and pledged to be reformmind­ed.

Kono, 58, a Georgetown University graduate who is fluent in English, has many fans among younger people, with whom he communicat­es via social media, a rarity in Japanese politics. With nearly 2.4 million followers on Twitter, he says he will keep tweeting if elected prime minister.

“I will embrace your views and worries, share informatio­n with you, convey a solid message and work with you to overcome this crisis that we face,” Kono said at a packed news conference, referring to the pandemic.

Kono’s declaratio­n comes a week after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s sudden announceme­nt that he will not seek another term as head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party in a Sept. 29 vote. The winner is virtually certain to be elected prime minister by parliament because the party and its coalition partner hold a majority of seats.

Two other lawmakers have already declared their candidacie­s: centrist former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi, who shares former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-wing ideology and revisionis­t views on wartime history.

Kono emphasized his achievemen­ts as vaccine minister, portraying himself as someone who gets things done by tearing down bureaucrat­ic barriers if necessary.

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