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Yoshihide Suga picked by Japan’s governing party to succeed Shinzo Abe

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Japan's governing party has elected Yoshihide Suga as its new leader to succeed Shinzo Abe, meaning he is almost certain to become the country's next prime minister.

Last month Mr Abe announced his resignation for reasons of ill health.

Mr Suga, 71, serves as chief cabinet secretary in the current administration and was widely expected to win.

He is considered a close ally of Mr Abe and likely to continue his predecessor's policies.

Mr Suga won the vote for the presidency of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by a large margin, taking 377 of a total of 534 votes from lawmakers and regional representatives.

He saw off two other contenders – Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, and Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary-general and one time defence minister.

Now that the party has chosen its new leader, there will be another vote on Wednesday in parliament, where Mr Suga is almost certain to be made prime minister because of the LDP's majority.

Taking over mid-term, Mr Suga is expected to stay in post until elections due in September 2021.

Who is Yoshihide Suga?

Born the son of strawberry farmers, Mr Suga is a veteran politician.

Given his central role of chief cabinet secretary in the administration, he is expected to provide continuity heading an interim government until the 2021 election.

"Shinzo Abe and the other party bosses picked and joined the bandwagon for Mr Suga precisely because he was the best 'continuity' candidate, someone who they think could continue Abe government without Abe," Koichi Nakano, dean and political science professor at Tokyo's Sophia University, told the BBC.

While not considered the most energetic or passionate politician, Mr Suga has a reputation of being very efficient and practical.

One of his most prominent appearances recently was during the transition from Emperor Akihito, who abdicated, to his son Naruhito in 2019. It fell to Mr Suga to unveil the name of the new Reiwa era to the Japanese and global public.

Yet, while he was the favourite to clinch the LDP leadership after Mr Abe's resignation, it is much less clear whether he will lead the party in next year's general election.

Observers suggest that by then, the party dynamic could shift to put a more vibrant man at the helm who can reach a wider general electorate.

What can we expect?

Mr Suga has promised to continue with "Abenomics", Mr Abe's signature economic policy that was designed to stimulate the world's third biggest economy through monetary easing, fiscal spending and structural reforms.

But like his predecessor he will first need to tackle the pressing demands of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of his election Mr Suga had pledged to expand Covid-19 testing and source vaccines for Japan by the first half of 2021.

He also said he would raise the minimum wage, promote agricultural reforms and boost tourism.

On foreign policy, too, he is expected to follow in Mr Abe's footsteps, prioritising Japan's long-running alliance with the US while also maintaining stable relations with China.

What is Japan's political outlook?

The leadership transition comes at a difficult time for the country. Japan is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused its biggest economic slump on record.

Mr Abe's long-standing project of kickstarting the economy, dubbed Abenomics was, even before the pandemic hit, still a work in progress and the country has seen several years of stagnation, recession or only very slow growth.

There's also unfinished business in the government's plans to reform the post-war pacifist constitution. Mr Abe wanted to change a section in the constitution to formally recognise Japan's military, which is currently called the Self Defence Force and is essentially barred from participatinRead More – Source

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