Yoshihide Suga poised to become Japan's next PM

Daniel Fowler
September 15, 2020

According to the Japan Times, the new ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader is expected to become the new PM because the party holds a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament.

Suga has emerged as the clear favourite to replace Abe, who is resigning on health grounds, since securing the support of key LDP factions.

Mr Suga, however, has made no secret of the fact that he comes from more humble origins: he is the son of a strawberry farmer and a teacher from a small rural city Yuzawa, in Japan's northern prefecture Akita.

While there is speculation that he may form a caretaker Cabinet that mainly keeps key members from the Abe government, Suga said he might as well pick reform-minded people willing to carry out his policies. His predecessor's economic policy - a combination of huge government spending, ultra-easy monetary policy and structural reforms - will remain untouched, he has said.

While during his days as a student, Suga showed little interest in the student protests against the security alliance between Japan and the USA and the Vietnam War, he gradually became interested in politics and successfully ran for the Yokohama city assembly in 1987 and entered national politics in 1996.

Compared to his political skills at home, Suga has hardly travelled overseas, and his diplomatic skills are unknown, though he is largely expected to pursue Abe's priorities.

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The closed-door politics also apparently led lawmakers to support Suga in hopes of getting favourable party and Cabinet posts in the new administration.

When Abe defied the odds and returned to power in 2012, he appointed Suga to the powerful chief cabinet secretary role, from which he is said to have helped push through several landmark Abe policies, including a loosening of restrictions on foreign workers.

"If Suga lasts, it will be in part due to not being a hereditary politician", Harris said. "In his own political career, and as Abe's principal adviser, he has persistently focused on the pocketbook issues that concern voters most".

There is some belief that Suga may only serve for the rest of Abe's term as prime minister, which was to end in September 2021.

As his parents' eldest son, Suga defied tradition by deciding not to take over the family farm. Kono will become the internal affairs minister.

At 71, Suga is the oldest of the three candidates, but his tireless work ethic is said to extend beyond his life in politics. While he has confessed to a weakness for pancakes, he reportedly burns off the extra calories by beginning and ending each day with 100 sit-ups.

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