- Suga comfortably sailed through after he obtained the votes of 377 delegates.
- After Abe’s resignation, Suga was not considered among the main favorites.
- "He represents a continuation of the Abe administration’s managerial stability."
Yoshihide Suga has been comfortably elected as the new head of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and is scheduled to officially succeed the outgoing Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. His official appointment will take place in the next few days, and will be a mere formality.
The competition to succeed Abe, who announced his resignation at the end of August, citing health reasons, took place with internal primaries within the center-right LDP, which leads the Japanese government. Suga comfortably sailed through after he obtained the votes of 377 delegates, beating the runner-up, former foreign minister Kishida Fumio, by almost 300 votes.
In his victory speech, Suga thanked Abe, and offered him a bouquet of flowers, celebrating with him the result of the vote. As per an analysis by The New York Times, the choice of Suga is a clear indicator that Japan remains a country where “stability matters more than ideology.”
The son of a strawberry farmer and a teacher, Suga has been in politics for more than thirty years, moving up the party hierarchy. In 1996, he entered the National Diet. Ten years later, he was in the government, and in 2012, he became Abe’s influential right arm, assuming the post of Chief Cabinet Secretary.
As such, Suga was the minister in charge of coordinating the activities of his ministerial colleagues. After Abe’s resignation, Suga was not considered among the main favorites. However, he was able to move well and obtain the support of almost all the factions of the party. He does not openly belong to any of them.
“He represents a continuation of the Abe administration’s managerial stability, but also simultaneously represents a stark contrast from Abe himself, in that he doesn’t come from the privileged dynastic background typical among so many LDP politicians,” Daniel M. Smith, a Japan expert who teaches comparative politics at Harvard , told the Japan Times.
Abe had carried out a series of liberalizations and promoted a broad granting of credit to boost consumption and increase inflation, particularly after the damage caused by the 2011 Tsunami.
For many critics, however, he has not done enough, despite Japan being the world’s third largest economy, and the unemployment rate has fallen significantly. GDP growth is modest, the inflation rate has remained lower than planned, and the country has a huge public debt.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought new problems, including the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, for which Abe had spent a lot of money. According to several observers, the Abe government had now exhausted its driving force, and it was only a matter of time before it underwent a major reshuffle.
Opinion polls however, continue to give the Liberal Democrats a huge advantage over other parties in the event of early elections.