Suga wins party vote, all but assuring election as Japan PM

Japan PM-designate Suga retains key ministers

As leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Suga is expected to become the new prime minister with Wednesday's vote.

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, now the chief Cabinet secretary of Abe's government, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats' ruling coalition.

The report added that the early vote counting of local representatives on Monday indicated Suga had an overwhelming lead over the two other contenders - former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. He also sparked criticism past year over his hostile responses to a female reporter asking tough questions about Abe's policies and scandals.

In an interview Suga gave to the Japan Times last Saturday, he said he hoped to amend the Constitution of Japan that has not been amended since it took effect in 1947 and was one of Abe's long-held goals. His current period in office began in 2012.

Yoshihide Suga was elected as the new head of Japan's ruling party on Monday.

Disciplined, focused, pragmatic - and masterfully skilled at bureaucratic wrangling - Mr Suga, 71, is well established in Japan as a powerful policy coordinator, advisor and all-round right-hand man of the outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe.

He has also effectively been the face of Abe's government, serving as its top spokesman and defending decisions in daily press conferences, including in sometimes testy exchanges with reporters.

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, now the chief Cabinet secretary, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats' ruling coalition.

Suga's status as a relative outsider could serve him well as he attempts to steer Japan out of a prolonged recession worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Tobias Harris, a Japan expert at Teneo Intelligence in Washington and the author of a new book on Abe. He also says he seeks to build a nation of "self-support, mutual support then public support", raising concerns of having a vision of a government that is cold to the weak and the needy.

"I will devote the whole of myself to Japan and the Japanese people".

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 said he wanted to solve the issue of Japanese nationals captured by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

While he is well known in Japan, Suga has rarely traveled internationally.

He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics.

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