Yoshihide Suga set to be Japan’s next Prime Minister

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga

New Delhi (NVI): Yoshihide Suga is all set to become Japan’s Prime Minister after he was elected to lead the ruling party following the resignation of Shinzo Abe.

Liberal Democratic party (LDP) MPs from both houses of parliament and representatives from prefectural party chapters voted overwhelmingly for Suga, with the Abe loyalist emerging from the poll with 377 of the 534 votes, well ahead of Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, with 89 votes, and Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister, with 68.

Suga is almost certain to be made Prime Minister after the LDP-controlled lower and upper houses vote on his appointment on Wednesday.

Taking over mid-term, Suga is expected to stay in post until elections due in September 2021.

As chief cabinet secretary for almost eight years, Suga has acted as the administration’s de facto second-in-command, batting away tricky questions at twice-daily press briefings, advising Abe on policy and reining in Japan’s recalcitrant bureaucracy.

The 71-year-old son of a strawberry farmer in rural northern Japan quickly emerged as the favourite to replace Abe, who announced his resignation last month on health grounds, after securing the support of major LDP factions.

Despite his low-key image as Abe’s right-hand man, Suga is actually known for his iron-fist approach to getting jobs done as a policy coordinator and influencing bureaucrats by using the centralised power of the prime minister’s office.

Suga’s most urgent task will be to sustain a recent fall in daily coronavirus cases while attempting to steer the world’s third-biggest economy out of a prolonged recession, worsened by the pandemic.

In addition to the coronavirus and the economic fallout, Suga stands to inherit several other challenges, including China, which continues its assertive actions in the East China Sea. He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to next summer due to the coronavirus.