Last month, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving leader, resigned from his position due to health reasons. On Monday, Japan’s longest-serving Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ensuring his place as Abe’s successor. Suga will be formally named as the new prime minister on September 16. He won 377 votes out of 534 votes cast, and 535 possible votes, in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election by the party’s members of parliament and representatives of its 47 local chapters. He has held the key post of chief cabinet secretary since 2012, acting as Abe’s top government spokesperson, coordinating policies, and keeping bureaucrats in line. He made reference to his background in accepting the party’s nomination as the leader, saying he “started from zero”. Yoshihide Suga’s years as a shadow power in Japanese politics left him a bit of a cipher. Now he is emerging to take control of the world’s third-largest economy at a time of deep uncertainty.
While most leading Japanese lawmakers come from elite political families, Mr. Suga is the son of a strawberry farmer and a schoolteacher from the country’s rural north. He is known more for expressionless recitations of government policy than flashes of charisma. Mr. Suga will take office in the middle of a pandemic that has devastated Japan’s economy, effectively erasing years of growth under Mr. Abe. Japan also is facing deepening pressure from China and North Korea. And it is losing a prime minister who built his foreign policy legacy partly on the successful management of President Trump, the mercurial leader of Japan’s most important strategically.