Vaccination minister Taro Kono is viewed by 48.6% of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s members as most suitable to be party leader and effectively Japan’s next prime minister, a Kyodo News poll showed Saturday.

Kono is running in the Sept. 29 LDP presidential election to pick Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s successor. He is vying with former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi, a former minister of internal affairs and communications, and Seiko Noda, the party’s executive acting secretary-general.

Kishida was supported by 18.5%, Takaichi 15.7% and Noda 3.3% in the two-day telephone survey conducted from Friday.

Whoever wins the race will become prime minister as the LDP-led coalition holds a majority in both chambers of the Diet.

Campaigning for the LDP presidential election began Friday, with the four lawmakers in a tight contest.

Suga announced earlier this month that he would not run in the leadership election, amid low public support due to dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Regarding policy priorities, 26.8% said the next prime minister should focus on steps to counter COVID-19, 24.2% said economic measures and 19.4% said foreign and security policies, according to the survey.

The survey also found that 25.5% viewed the Suga government’s response to the pandemic as poor.

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