Yoshihide Suga elected as Japan's Prime Minister

Yoshihide Suga elected as Japan's Prime Minister

NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: Yoshihide Suga has been elected as Japan’s prime minister, becoming the country’s first new leader in nearly eight years and facing a raft of challenges including reviving an economy battered by the COVID-19 crisis, news agency Reuters reported on Wednesday. He is presently readying a "continuity cabinet", which is expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe`s lineup.

Suga, 71, Abe`s longtime right-hand man, has pledged to pursue many of Abe`s programmes, including his signature "Abenomics" economic strategy, and to forge ahead with structural reforms, including deregulation and streamlining bureaucracy.

Abe, Japan`s longest-serving premier, resigned because of ill health after nearly eight years in office. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary.

Suga won 314 votes out of 462 cast by parliament`s lower house members. The chamber takes precedence in electing a premier over the upper house, which was also expected to pick Suga because of a ruling bloc majority.

Suga, who won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race by a landslide on Monday, faces a plethora of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.

With little direct diplomatic experience, Suga must also cope with an intensifying U.S.-China confrontation, build ties with the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election and try to keep Japan`s own relations with Beijing on track.

Domestic media said that roughly half of the new cabinet would be people from the Abe cabinet. There will be only two women and the average age, including Suga, is 60.

Among those expected to retain their jobs are key players such as Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, along with Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the youngest at 39.

"It`s a `Continuity with a capital C` cabinet," said Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments.

Abe`s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is likely to be tapped for the defence portfolio, while outgoing Defence Minister Taro Kono will take charge of administrative reform, a post he has held before.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Abe`s point man on COVID-19 response, will remain economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, will also retain his post, media reported.

Suga has praised Abe's diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the party and opposes factionalism, says he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms. He says he will set up a new government agency to speed up Japan's lagging digital transformation.

Suga said he will appoint “reform-minded, hard-working people” to the new Cabinet, to be launched later Wednesday. Media reports say some key ministers, including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, will stay.

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

The new prime minister will inherit a range of challenges, including relations with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea, and what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whomever wins the US presidential race.
 

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