Koizumi endorses Kono as Japan's next ruling party chief

Nikkei -- Sep 15
Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi said Tuesday that he will back vaccine point man Taro Kono to become the next leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"It's clear who can be the leader to breathe new life into the party and to change both the LDP and Japan," Koizumi told reporters. The winner of the party's presidential race would be poised to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Kono, who also serves as administrative reform minister, is considered the front-runner for the Sept. 29 party vote. But the Hosoda faction, the largest of the LDP's intraparty groups, said Tuesday that its members will back one of two other candidates: former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi or former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida.

"It's clear that they will support anybody but Kono," said the environment minister, a rising star in the LDP and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He urged younger lawmakers to rally behind Kono, especially those serving their first to third terms.

Kono and Shinjiro Koizumi are close, both representing districts in Kanagawa Prefecture, which includes Yokohama. Koizumi had said in 2020 he would support Kono, had the latter decided to run in the previous LDP leadership race that year.