Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary, could become the new prime minister of Japan, replacing Shinzo Abe.
The longtime and loyal aide to Abe is set to be elected as the new Liberal Democratic Party president, all-but ensuring he replaces Abe this week in the nation’s top job, the Japan Times reported.
Abe announced his pending resignation as Prime Minister on 20 August, citing a resurgence of his ulcerative colitis. He will officially stand down when The Diet, Japan’s parliament, elects his successor on 16 September, after confirmation of the results of the Liberal Democratic Party leadership election. The Liberal Democratic Party has a clear majority in the lower house.
Suga, 71, has secured more than half of the 535 votes to be cast in the leadership poll, giving him a commanding lead over his two rivals – former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 63, and Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida, 63. With support from five major factions, Suga looks to have secured more than 70% of the 394 votes from party lawmakers. Of the remaining 141 votes, allocated to the party’s 47 prefectural chapters, Suga has secured at least 48 votes against 27 expected for Ishiba and nine for Kishida.
Suga, who will serve out Abe’s term as party leader through September 2021, has said he would continue Abe’s signature “Abenomics” strategy of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms while juggling the problems of COVID-19 and a deep recession. Japan’s ageing population and low birthrate also has to be confronted.
There is the likelihood Suga will call a snap election for parliament’s lower house 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 lower chamber must be held by late October 2021.
Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer from northern Japan, began in politics as a local assemblyman. Since 2012 Suga has held the key post of chief cabinet secretary, acting as Abe’s leading government spokesman, coordinating policies and ensuring harmony with bureaucrats.