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Politics

Poll shows 27% favor Kono as Japan's next ruling party leader

Ishiba, Kishida next most popular in runup to election to decide Suga's replacement

Declared and potential contenders to lead the ruling LDP include, from left, Fumio Kishida, Taro Kono, Shigeru Ishiba and Sanae Takaichi. (Source photos by Wataru Ito, Yumi Kotani and Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO -- Japan’s Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono is the favorite to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as the next president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to an opinion poll conducted by Nikkei and TV Tokyo on Sept. 9-11.

The LDP presidential election, scheduled for Sept. 29, will effectively pick the next prime minister. Suga on Sept. 3 said he will not seek reelection.

A total of 27% of respondents picked Kono when asked who would be "the right person" to choose as LDP president. Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba was second with 17% and former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida was third with 14%. Former Interior Minister Sanae Takaichi was fifth with 7%.

Kono, Kishida and Takaichi have announced that they will run, while Ishiba is considering his options. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi was in fourth place with 10%, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in sixth place with 6%, and Seiko Noda, the LDP’s executive acting secretary-general who is eager to run, was in seventh place with 2%.

The survey asked respondents to pick one of 10 LDP politicians. Among respondents who were LDP supporters, Kishida moved up to second place and Ishiba came in third. Kono, Kishida and Takaichi were 3 to 5 percentage points higher than the overall figures, while support for Ishiba fell by 4 points lower than the overall figure.

Among the "non-partisan class" that did not support a particular political party, Kono still came in at the top at 22% and Ishiba was second with 16%. Kishida was 9% and Takaichi was 4%.

The LDP president is elected via voting by members of parliament that belong to the LDP, as well as party members and supporters. The election, which will be quickly followed by the lower house election, is an event to choose the face of the party. LDP members are expected to vote with an awareness of the candidates’ popularity among the public.

The approval rating of the Suga cabinet was 36%, almost flat from 34% in August. The percentage of respondents who did not support the cabinet was 56%, the same as in August, higher than the approval rating for the fifth straight month.

When asked why they did not support Suga, "no leadership" accounted for 50% of total responses.

Support for the LDP hit 48%, up nine percentage points from August. The second-place Constitutional Democratic Party fell 3 points to 8%, and the nonpartisan group, without supporting parties, fell 2 points to 31%.

The survey was conducted by Nikkei Research on men and women over the age of 18 by telephone using the random number method, including mobile phones, and 984 responses were obtained. The response rate was 43.3%.

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