Yoshihide Suga set to become Japan’s next PM

Andrew Cummings
September 15, 2020

Yoshihide Suga, the newly chosen leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, will retain Taro Aso as finance minister and deputy prime minister after his expected election as prime minister later this week, Nikkei has learned.

Suga said that the government needs to "inherit and facilitate policies promoted by Prime Minister Abe".

Nikai, Shimomura, Sato, Moriyama and Yamaguchi belong to each of the five factions that backed Suga in the LDP presidential election.

Yoshihide Suga was elected as the new head of Japan's ruling party on Monday. "I will devote all of myself to work for the nation and the people", he said in his victory speech.

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, now the chief Cabinet secretary, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats' ruling coalition. That is a policy of using government spending and readily available money to help the economy.

"Having served as Abe's defender-in chief, Suga can not disown Abe and push through major policy transformation without incurring strong criticism".

On foreign policy, Suga will continue to prioritise Japan's security ties with the USA in the face of an assertive China and nuclear-armed North Korea, although he admitted on Sunday that he lacked the "diplomatic skills" that helped Abe forge a close personal relationship with Donald Trump.

He has also effectively been the face of Abe's government, serving as its top spokesman and defending decisions in daily press conferences, including in sometimes testy exchanges with reporters.

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe's first time as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. "Having worked his way up through politics, he is prepared to work harder and is better able to connect with voters than Abe was".

There is some belief that Suga may only serve for the rest of Abe's term as prime minister, which was to end in September 2021.

As a young man, he ignored tradition when he decided not to take over his parents farm in Northern Japan.

But since announcing his candidacy at the end of August, he has undergone a modest image change, from inscrutable political enforcer whose most memorable public act to date was announcing the name of the new Reiwa era past year, to the closest Japan's dominant conservative party has to the man on the Tokyo omnibus.

He has allowed only occasional glimpses into his personal life with his family far from the spotlight, but revealed in interviews that he bookends his day with 100 sit-ups in the morning and 100 in the evening, and has a weakness for pancakes.

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