• Kyodo

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Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono, who also oversees the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, is the top pick to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who will resign later this month, according to the results of a Kyodo News poll released Sunday.

Kono, known as an outspoken lawmaker who is savvy with social media, won the support of 31.9% of respondents in the nationwide telephone survey conducted on Saturday and Sunday. Kono placed ahead of former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who came in second with 26.6%, and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, at 18.8%.

The trio are among possible contenders in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 presidential election, which will effectively pick the next prime minister.

Kishida and former Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi have said they will join the race, while the others have yet to announce their decisions.

Suga, who has seen his approval rating plummet to record lows in media polls, said Friday that he would not run in the upcoming LDP leadership race.

On his decision to step down as prime minister, 56.7% said his resignation was expected, with 56.3% voicing disapproval of his government’s COVID-19 response since he took office in September last year.

As for the Tokyo Paralympics that ended on Sunday, an overwhelming majority were supportive of holding the event despite the capital remaining under a COVID-19 state of emergency, with 69.8% saying they were glad the games were held as scheduled and 26.3% believing otherwise.

An equally large portion of the respondents said that the event has been beneficial for society at large, as 67.1% said they think it will help foster unity.

Past Kyodo News surveys reflected strong public concerns about holding the Olympics and Paralympics at a time when the country is struggling to contain a resurgence of coronavirus infections in Tokyo and many other parts of the country. The Tokyo Games were held following a year of delay due to the pandemic.

The approval rating of Suga’s Cabinet fell to a record low of 30.1% in the latest survey, down 1.7 points from the last opinion poll in mid-August. The disapproval rating was at 58.5%, up 7.9 points.

Asked which party they plan to vote for under the proportional representation system in the upcoming House of Representatives election, 43.4% said the LDP and 17.3% said the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Among other parties, 5.7% cited the Japanese Communist Party as their choice, followed by 5.6% for Nippon Ishin no Kai and 5.2% for the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito.

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