The Yoshihide Suga Story – Rise of Japan’s New Prime Minister
Suga was instrumental in helping Abe reclaim the LDP leadership in 2012.
Suga is due to be formally appointed prime minister by a vote in the Japanese parliament on Wednesday, where the conservative LDP has a majority in both houses.
Former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s due to illness was a surprise. But once the leadership contest was declared, 71-year-old Suga - the chief cabinet secretary - was widely expected to be Japan’s next prime minister. Wanting policy consistency, the leaders of five out of seven of the LDP’s major factions declared their support for Suga, which of challengers Fumio Kishida and Shigeru Ishiba.
Who is Suga?
Unlike Abe and many other Japanese politicians, Suga a dynastic political support network. He is the eldest son of a prosperous strawberry farmer in the northern Akita prefecture. The young Suga did not take up the family farm but left for Tokyo. He studied at Hosei University and worked at a cardboard box factory and as a security guard.
After switching between different factions, Suga ended up unaligned. But he became close to Abe and was internal affairs minister in Abe’s first term of government in 2006.
A Fierce Reputation
What Will Suga Do Now?
He has indicated the consumption tax could be raised again in future. Suga also wants to reduce mobile phone rates, restructure regional banks and encourage further digitisation of the economy.
But apart from COVID-19, there are big challenges ahead. Suga’s administration will struggle to restimulate the economy out of its deepest postwar , hold the next year, and confront entrenched gender and income .
International And Security Challenges
The new leader’s will be to maintain the US alliance and keep relations with China relatively smooth. Unlike his rival Ishiba, Suga does not favour creating an “Asian NATO”, but will still promote cooperative middle-power relations with ASEAN, India and Australia.
Suga also shares Abe’s unfulfilled goal of changing of the constitution to allow of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces. His new cabinet will proceed with a controversial new defence doctrine, for pre-emptive strikes against potential threats from the Asian continent.
The next election for the lower house of the Diet is due by October 2021, so at most, Suga only has a year to prove himself to be more than a caretaker prime minister.
Internal rivals will seek another chance at the top job, particularly as the whole rank-and-file membership of the LDP will be allowed to participate in this vote. This may favour the generally more popular Ishiba.
If a larger field of candidates such as defence minister Taro Kono, or acting secretary-general Tomomi Inada run against Suga, it is possible Japan could have yet another new prime minister by this time next year.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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