Suga Likely to Become Japan’s Next Prime Minister

Abe’s ‘loyal right-hand man’ Yoshihide Suga chosen by ruling party to succeed him as Japan’s PM

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.

On August 28, Shinzo Abe announced that he would resign due to health problems.

Now the chief cabinet secretary, Suga took 377 of a total of 534 votes against the two other contenders, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Yoshihide Suga, who is set to become Japan's next prime minister, is considering appointing health minister Katsunobu Kato as Chief Cabinet Secretary while retaining others in key cabinet posts, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

As chief cabinet secretary for nearly eight years, Suga has acted as the administration's de facto second-in-command, batting away tricky questions at twice-daily press briefings, advising Abe on policy and reining in Japan's recalcitrant bureaucracy.

While during his days as a student, Suga showed little interest in the student protests against the security alliance between Japan and the United States and the Vietnam War, he gradually became interested in politics and successfully ran for the Yokohama city assembly in 1987 and entered national politics in 1996. He has praised Abe's diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to do as prime minister. He said the most important issues he faces are fighting the coronavirus and rebuilding Japan's economy.

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© Thomson Reuters Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gestures during his regular news conference at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, September 14, 2020.

Suga appointed Seiko Noda and Tamayo Marukawa, two female lawmakers, as the party's executive acting secretary general and head of its Public Relations Headquarters, respectively. What sets him apart from several Japanese leaders is his image as a self-made man who does not belong to a dynasty or elite political family. Those who have opposed his policies have found themselves removed from projects or positions.

He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin congratulated Suga and expressed willingness "to deepen cooperation in the fight against the epidemic and economic and social development, and continuously promote improvement and development of China-Japan relations". Others think he will last longer. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whoever wins the USA presidential race.

Suga is known to have helped smooth out differences by keeping close ties with a centrist coalition partner, Komeito.

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