Yoshihide Suga appointed new Japanese prime minister

Yoshihide Suga spent nearly eight years as Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and is expected to become prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday

Yoshihide Suga - now the chief cabinet secretary, who is widely considered to be a close confidant to the PM - was selected on Monday to replace Abe as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and is all but ensured to secure confirmation on Wednesday, given the party's parliamentary majority.

On Wednesday, both houses of the Japanese parliament will hold a vote to name the new prime minister, who will then appoint new ministers.

Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring he would succeed Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health.

Suga, a 71-year-old politician who holds a role in the current administration as chief Cabinet secretary, is expected to pursue his predecessor's "Abenomics" policies and is now the front-runner in the prime minister race.

Just two women are so far reported to be in the cabinet, as Olympic minister and justice minister, down from the three who served in Abe's last government.

The 71-year-old has spent decades in politics, most recently as chief cabinet secretary, where he was known for pushing government policies through a sometimes intractable bureaucracy.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles - so-called bureaucratic silos - than any grand guiding principles.

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He has said that he will pursue Abe's unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. More of the same, he says.

Among those retaining 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.

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

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Abe's point man on Covid-19 response, remains economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, also retains his post.

Relations with China may prove trickier.

Abe will stay on as a lawmaker and has pledged to support Suga, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

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