Yoshihide Suga has been elected as Japan’s new prime minister, following Shinzo Abe’s resignation. Former chief cabinet secretary Suga is a new prime minister the country has got after eight years. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Suga on his appointment.
Suga, 71, won an easy victory, garnering 314 votes of 462 valid ballots cast in the lower house of Kokkai or Diet, the Japanese parliament. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds a commanding majority.
Suga is expected to announce his cabinet later on 16 September, with local media reporting he will retain a number of ministers from Abe’s last government.
Suga, who on 15 September was elected leader of the LDP, is viewed as a continuity candidate. He has said his run was inspired by a desire to pursue Abe’s policies.
Abe, who resigned earlier on 16 September along with his cabinet, is ending his record run in the office with a year left in his mandate. He was forced out by a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that has long plagued him.
Yoshihide Suga has spent decades in politics — most recently as chief cabinet secretary, where he was known for pushing government policies through a sometimes intractable bureaucracy. He has been the face of the government, doggedly defending its policies as spokesman, including in sometimes testy exchanges with journalists.
Suga’s upbringing, as the son of a strawberry-farmer father and schoolteacher mother, sets him apart from the many blue-blood political elites in his party and the Japanese political scene. But while he has championed some measures intended to help rural areas like his hometown in northern Japan’s Akita, his political views remain something of a mystery.
Suga is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles — so-called bureaucratic silos — than any grand guiding principles. He will face a raft of tough challenges, including an economy that was already in recession before the coronavirus pandemic.
Suga has said kickstarting the economy will be a top priority, along with containing the virus — essential if the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are to open as planned in July 2021.