Suga set to replace Abe as PM

Says fighting pandemic and turning around economy his priority

Suga set to replace Abe as PM

Yoshihide Suga gestures as he is elected the head of the ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Party’s poll on Monday. Reuters

Tokyo, September 14

Yoshihide Suga was elected the new head of Japan’s ruling party on Monday, virtually guaranteeing him parliamentary election as the country’s next Prime Minister.

Suga received 377 votes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party election to pick a successor to PM Shinzo Abe, who announced last month that he would resign due to health problems. The other two contenders received a combined 157 votes — former foreign minister Fumio Kishida got 89 and former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba had 68.

Poll draws Criticism

  • That Suga’s victory appears to be a done deal has raised criticism from inside and outside the party that the process is undemocratic and murky
  • Lawmakers supported Suga apparently in hopes of getting favourable party and Cabinet posts in the new administration
  • Suga received 377 votes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party election

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, currently the chief cabinet secretary of Abe’s government, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats’ ruling coalition. Suga gained the support of party heavyweights and their wing members early in the campaign on expectations that he would continue Abe’s policies.

That his victory appeared to be a done deal has raised criticism from inside and outside the party that the process is undemocratic and murky. The closed-door politics also apparently led lawmakers to support Suga in hopes of getting favourable party and Cabinet posts in the new administration. Suga has said his top priorities are fighting Covid and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. He repeatedly has noted achievements under the Abe-led government when asked about various policies.

Despite his low-key image as Abe’s right-hand man, Suga is actually known for his iron-fist approach to getting jobs done as a policy coordinator and influencing bureaucrats by using the centralised power of the PM’s office. Suga says he is a reformist and that he has worked to achieve policies by breaking territorial barriers of bureaucracy.

Suga had emerged as frontrunner after Abe, Japan's longest-serving premier, said last month he would resign because of ill health, ending nearly eight years in office.

There is speculation Suga will call an election for the lower house of parliament as soon as next month to boost his chances of winning a full three-year term as LDP chief next year. A vote for the chamber must be held by late October 2021.— Agencies

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