Suga elected Japan's new PM in parliament vote

Cheryl Sanders
September 16, 2020

Suga, a 71-year-old politician who holds a role in the current administration as chief Cabinet secretary, is expected to pursue his predecessor's "Abenomics" policies and is now the front-runner in the prime minister race.

The leader of Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Suga Yoshihide, has been chosen as Japan's new prime minister by the country's Diet. During Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the soon-to-be former PM said his condition was improving, thanking citizens for their support while urging them to get behind his successor.

The new prime minister also announced the makeup of his new Cabinet.

Suga's background, as the son of a strawberry farmer father and schoolteacher mother, sets him apart from the many blue blood political elites in his party and the Japanese political scene.

Speculation has simmered that Suga might call a snap election for parliament's lower house to take advantage of any rise in public support, although he has said handling the pandemic and reviving the economy were his top priorities. "During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges together with the people, and I'm proud of myself". Abe's tenure ended abruptly because of illness, and Suga helped him return as prime minister in 2012.

Suga has praised Abe's diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the party and opposes factionalism, says he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms.

He plans to appoint "reform-minded, hard-working people" to the new Cabinet, to be launched later Wednesday. He will succeed Shinzo Abe, who has resigned over health issues.

Taro Aso remained in his position as finance minister and Toshimitsu Motegi kept his job as foreign minister.

Katsunobu Kato, outgoing health minister and a close Suga ally, takes on the challenging post of chief cabinet secretary.

Compared with his political prowess at home, Suga has hardly traveled overseas and his diplomatic skills are unknown, though he is largely expected to pursue Abe's priorities.

There too, experts say, he is likely to tread the path charted by Abe, prioritising the key relationship with the United States, whoever is president after November's election.

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