Yoshihide Suga wins party vote for Japan prime minister

Shigeru Ishiba, Yoshihide Suga and Fumio Kishida

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

While the chief cabinet secretary role has in the past been a stepping stone to the prime minister's office, Suga had regularly said he was not interested in the top job.

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.

Experts say Suga is pragmatic rather than ideological, and he is seen by lawmakers along the political spectrum within the LDP as a neutral figure. His predecessor's economic policy - a combination of huge government spending, ultra-easy monetary policy and structural reforms - will remain untouched, he has said.

But since announcing his candidacy at the end of August, he has undergone a modest image change, from inscrutable political enforcer whose most memorable public act to date was announcing the name of the new Reiwa era a year ago, to the closest Japan's dominant conservative party has to the man on the Tokyo omnibus.

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.

As his parents' eldest son, Suga defied tradition by deciding not to take over the family farm. "I will devote all of myself to work for the nation and the people", he said in his victory speech.

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While during his days as a student, Suga showed little interest in the student protests against the security alliance between Japan and the United States and the Vietnam War, he gradually became interested in politics and successfully ran for the Yokohama city assembly in 1987 and entered national politics in 1996. As the son of a foreign minister and grandson of a prime minister, Abe stands out even in a parliament packed with hereditary politicians.

© Provided by The Guardian Merchandise featuring Japan's expected new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is displayed at a store in his home town of Yuzawa.

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

"Having served as Abe's defender-in chief, Suga can not disown Abe and push through major policy transformation without incurring strong criticism".

Suga has said he wants to maintain communication and develop strategic ties with China and South Korea despite rocky relations with them. He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to next summer due to the coronavirus.

Yoshihide Suga is poised to win Japan's ruling party leadership vote on Monday, virtually guaranteeing him parliamentary election as the country's next prime minister. And he will have to build a relationship with whoever wins the USA presidential race. Others think he will last longer.

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