Yoshihide Suga wins party vote for Japan prime minister

Yoshihide Suga wins party vote for Japan prime minister

Suga is a rare party leader who does not belong to any faction.

© Provided by Associated Press Japan's Liberal Democratic Party's leadership election candidates, former Japan's Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba, left, and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attend a debate ahead of the LDP's leadership election, in Tokyo Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.

This means he will be the next prime minister after Mr Abe, Japan's longest-serving leader, quit abruptly last month due to a flare-up of ulcerative colitis, a stress-induced chronic digestive ailment.

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's election as prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session on Wednesday is nearly certain as the governing party controls the House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber, and holds a majority in the House of Councillors with its coalition partner Komeito party.

The 71-year-old is considered a close ally of Abe and has stated that he would continue his predecessor's "Abenomics" strategy of hyper-easy monetary policy.

Analysts say Suga is unlikely to make any major agenda reversals, and the candidate himself has said his run is meant to ensure a continuation of Abe's key policies.

"Prime Minister Abe's leadership diplomacy was truly fantastic".

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The 47-strong group led by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai was the first to declare for Suga.

The country was already in recession before the coronavirus pandemic, and numerous gains of the signature Abenomics economic policy are now in danger.

Suga said his top priorities are fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

Suga would also inherit unfinished business on other challenges.

"Now is a hard time for Japan as the USA is putting pressure on China", said Makoto Iokibe, a professor of political and diplomatic history at the University of Hyogo.

Several senior government officials have mooted the possibility, perhaps as early as October, but Suga has been circumspect so far. This is because the Liberal Democrats' ruling coalition holds majority in the House.

But the LDP would still be heavily favoured in any new elections, even if Suga's personal appeal to voters remains an open question.

Suga says that he is a reformist and that he has worked to achieve policies by breaking territorial barriers of bureaucracy.

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