Yoshihide Suga was elected as Japan’s next prime minister by the country’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday, the Japan Times reported. He will succeed Shinzo Abe who resigned last month because of poor health. Suga promised that he would continue Abe’s signature economic policies.
The new prime minister will also announce the makeup of his new Cabinet and about half of the members in the Abe Cabinet are expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.
Of the 20 reported members of Suga’s Cabinet, only five of them are rookie ministers, including Abe’s younger brother Nobuo Kishi, who will be the new defence minister. For key Cabinet posts, Suga chose Taro Aso as finance minister, Toshimitsu Motegi as foreign minister and Yasutoshi Nishimura as minister in charge of economic revitalisation and the government’s coronavirus response.
Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer, won the leadership contest of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Monday by 377 votes out of 534 votes. The 71-year-old is considered a close ally of Abe and has stated that he would continue his predecessor’s “Abenomics” strategy of hyper-easy monetary policy. Suga served as a powerful government adviser and spokesperson during Abe’s nearly eight-year tenure. Abe had declined to publicly endorse any candidate.
Suga faces numerous challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic, a slumping economy and China’s actions in the East China Sea.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Suga on his appointment and said he was looking forward to jointly take the “special strategic and global partnership” between the two countries to new heights.
“Heartiest congratulations to Excellency Yoshihide Suga on the appointment as Prime Minister of Japan,” he tweeted. “I look forward to jointly taking our Special Strategic and Global Partnership to new heights.”
Meanwhile, Abe held his last Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday morning. He thanked the public for its support and said his health condition is improving.
“After [the LDP] took over political power, I’ve worked to the best of my abilities every single day to revitalize the economy and carry out diplomacy to protect national interests,” Abe told reporters. “I’m indebted to all the people and I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart...I’d like to ask you all for your strong support and understanding for the Suga Cabinet that will launch today.”