Confidence and strategy: Japanese Taro Kono upends race for next Prime Minister

Taro Kono, head of Japan’s vaccination program and ruling legislator of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), attends a news conference as he announces his candidacy for the partythe presidential elections in Tokyo, Japan, September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO, Sept. 14 (Reuters) – When Taro Kono, Japan leading contender to be prime minister, was a senior in high school, he asked his father to send him overseas for university, but was flatly refused.

Instead, the elder Kono, a leading politician in the pronounciation party, took to be son to a reception at the American embassy in an offer on prove his english was not good enough.

But the move failed.

“I went around the room and told” people enthusiastic, in my broken english, how l wanted to in study abroad, but my father used to be against it, so I had a problem’ wrote Kono in a recent book.

Everyone said no, he should wait. But die response, and maybe his… son’s guts, on the one of convinced of the father, and Kono wound up spent four years at Georgetown University in Washington, DC

Now 58, Japan’s Popular Vaccines minister is flowing in English and hopes die to parry early combination of self confidence, strategy and stubbornness to become a leader of the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and prime minister.

strewn next to a resume with high-profile wallets such as foreign affairs and defense, he runs a Twitter feed in two languages ​​and, in An world of staid politicians, on the other hand, speaks bluntly with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“Kono is a close communicator, he talks,” said Corey Wallace, a foreigner policy specialist at the University of Kanagawa.

“He’s Always” out there, giving press conferences on the roll-out of the vaccine and so on on”Walace” added. “Suga looked like he only communicated when he really had to.”

Kono regularly tops opinion polls as voters’ choice for the next prime minister, which one will help it with both regular members in the LDP competition, and young lawmakers are concerned over keeping their jobs as general election threatens this year.

Image, where Kono excels, could surpass policy, said Airo Hino, a professor of politics science at Waseda University.

“Legislators are sure to go” pick who they think it’s better for re-election,” Hino added.

“They think of election posters and their faces on them with the LDP chairman. This is mainly true in urban areas, and with the young.”


Kono’s reach has blossomed on social media, where he collected 2.4 million followers on Twitter.

The erratic messages of asked this year, met memes, his lunch of a mask with a dinosaur skull, have moved on to promoting the vaccine and highlighting online policy meetings.

That Kono had forged a real connection with die who usually don’t care about politicians became clear when the debate erupted online after he blocked some of die who do not agree with with it on Twitter.

But that incident also throws light on one of its greatest weaknesses, analysts say.

“He Wants You” like him, and he wants like you, and he wants to commit, but he has a little of an angry streak and it can be a liability,” Wallace said.

In 2019, when foreign minister, Kono reprimanded the South Korean ambassador at a meeting in front of camera’s and told him he was “extremely rude”.

These memories arouse consternation in South Korea, already nervous over the conservative attitude Kono took on key policy when a cabinet minister.

That’s a contrast with to be father, Yohei Kono, the head cabinet secretary who wrote a historic apology in 1993 to “comfort” women”, a euphemism” for the ones die be forced to work in brothels in wartime in Japan.

South Korean media have played up his harsh stance, and some commentators fear already- Tensioned tires may not improve.

But at home there is hope that Kono, whose maverick nature reminiscent of the wildly popular Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, maybe in be able to get things done.

Analysts say the most of debt for Japan’s treatment of the pandemic has landed on suga, die sinks his closet, while Kono has built A picture of working hard on the rollout of the vaccine.

Until recently, Japan’s emergency measures have yielded little to reduce virus infections die the hospitals flooded to curb, but after a slow start vaccination rate has increased slightly more then half, draw close to the United States and other G7 countries.

“He … conquered met especially all the obstacles and bureaucratic excuses made by the ministry of health,” said Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Public Health at King’s College London, who targeted municipal vaccinations in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, the capital.

“I think he is the only candidate who can challenge the status quo.”

But first Kono must win, which means he will have to overcome the deep-seated fears of party elders die he could be hard to keep in account.

“That’s not to say that Kono is all right against what the party want to do,” Wallace added. “But He Will Be His” prime minister, one way of another.”

Additional reporting by Ju-min Park and Rocky Swift; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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