Japan’s Ruling Party Picks PM Abe’s Replacement

Abe’s right-hand-man wins landslide leadership victory . . .

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) chief Cabinet Secretary, won his party’s presidential election on Monday by a wide margin, effectively becoming the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe announced his resignation two weeks ago due to health complications. Suga is expected to announce a new cabinet lineup on Wednesday when he assumes office and hold talks with Komeito, the LDP’s political partner, to secure the governing coalition.

Who is Suga?

The son of a strawberry farmer and a schoolteacher from Japan’s rural north, 71-year-old Suga has a background that differs from Abe and other Japanese politicians who typically come from elite political families. Without connections and experience, his first steps into politics involved door-to-door campaigning and personal initiative. Suga’s political acumen earned him a pivotal role in the Abe administration. He became one of Abe’s most trusted advisors, helping the former PM push through major initiatives, notably ‘Abenomics,’ a series of economic policies to revive Japan’s stagnating economy. Suga’s reliability throughout the Abe years will likely be a feature of his leadership, as he vowed to continue much of the policies championed by his predecessor.

Big shoes to fill . . .

With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, an economic crisis looming larger, and geopolitical threats in Asia on the rise, Suga has inherited a difficult situation that will benefit from the promise of stability. According to a recent poll, more than 50 per cent of the population currently supports Suga despite Abe ending his term with near record-low support rates. Whether or not Suga can leverage his story of a self-made man and present himself as a charismatic leader remains to be seen. With signs of a potential snap election in October, continuity may not be enough to win over the Japanese electorate.