Yoshihide Suga to become Japan’s next prime minister

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Shinzo Abe’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga will become Japan’s next prime minister after winning a mandate to continue his predecessor’s domestic and foreign policy.

The vote on Monday afternoon saw the 71-year-old win in a landslide after a fortnight of campaigning, with a majority of 377 out of 534 MPs and regional delegates from the Liberal Democratic Party backing his ascent to the Kantei.

He is expected to be formally declared prime minister after a parliamentary vote on Wednesday, where the LDP has a ruling majority.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and a key figure in international relations resigned on August 28, after a prolonged battle with a chronic illness. The 65-year-old apologised to the Japanese people for not being able to give the coronavirus crisis his full attention as the country prepares for an Olympics in 10 months’ time.

Suga, who announced his candidacy on September 2, ran on a platform of continuing Abe’s stimulatory economic policies and diplomatic engagement with allies across the Indo-Pacific region.

« A strong economy is necessary for social welfare, national security and fiscal reform, » Suga told a livestreamed LDP debate last week. « We must first revive the economy, because only then can we push through fiscal reform. »

Domestically, Suga’s immediate attention will be focused on containing the coronavirus but the political veteran faces long-term challenges managing Japan’s ageing population and ongoing gender inequality in its workforce.

The former minister for internal affairs highlighted the Japan-US alliance at the beginning of his campaign and said it needed to be « further deepened ». The move will be welcomed by Australian policymakers as geopolitical tensions rise with China, despite Suga’s relatively shallow diplomatic experience.

The teetotal son of a strawberry farmer is only the fourth post-war prime minister not to have come from a political family in a country still dominated by political dynasties.

His journey to the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo started in university politics. He was elected to the Yokahama City Council in 1987, before joining Japan’s parliament, the Diet, less than a decade later. The political veteran was at Abe’s side throughout his time in office as the chief cabinet secretary and the government’s top spokesman, where he developed a reputation as a dour but direct leader.

« People think I’m scary but I’m very nice to those who do their job properly, » he told the leadership debate last week.

Suga defeated rivals including Fumio Kishida, Japan’s former foreign minister and former defence minister, Shigeru Ishiba, by up to 300 votes.

The next election must be held before October 22, 2021, but government ministers have suggested the poll may need to be brought forward to give Suga a popular mandate.

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Sunday said the new administration could face criticism without the electoral support of voters.

« If that’s the case, I feel like [the next prime minister] is going to dissolve the lower house, » he said in a speech on Sunday reported by Kyodo news.

« Whatever happens, there has to be a lower house election within the next year. If I’m blunt, it might be soon. »

Our weekly newsletter will deliver expert analysis of the race to the White House from our US correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up for The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Times’ here and WAtoday’s here. 

Eryk Bagshaw is the China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Due to travel restrictions, he is currently based in Canberra.



SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com/news/yoshihide-suga-to-become-japans-next-prime-minister/?remotepost=272988

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