Yoshihide Suga succeeds Shinzo Abe as Japan’s leader

Japan’s parliament has elected Yoshihide Suga as the country’s new prime minister, following the resignation of Shinzo Abe due to ill health.

Mr Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring he would succeed Mr Abe, who stepped down along with his Cabinet on Wednesday.

The new leader, who was chief Cabinet secretary in the Abe government, has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Yoshihide Suga is known for opposing factionalism (Nicolas Datiche/Pool/AP)</figcaption>
Yoshihide Suga is known for opposing factionalism (Nicolas Datiche/Pool/AP)

He has said he will pursue his predecessor’s unfinished policies, adding that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

Mr Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced last month he was stepping down because of health problems.

“I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Mr Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office before heading into his final Cabinet meeting.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Shinzo Abe has stepped down due to persistent health concerns (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)</figcaption>
Shinzo Abe has stepped down due to persistent health concerns (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Mr Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the ruling party and opposes factionalism, has said he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms. He says he will set up a new government agency to speed up Japan’s lagging digital transformation.

In a reshuffle of the ruling party key posts, Mr Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions in a balancing act seen as a return of favour for their support in the leadership race.

Mr Suga said he will appoint “reform-minded, hard-working people” to the new Cabinet, with about half of the members from the Abe Cabinet expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.