Japan’s governing party has tapped its candidate for the country’s top job and it’s not much of a surprise: Yoshihide Suga, the insider and longtime aide to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The move will pave the way for the 71-year-old politician, who served as chief cabinet secretary, to become the country’s new prime minister. Another deciding vote will be held in parliament on Wednesday.
A long-time party favorite, Suga was so widely expected by Japanese political analysts and observers to win the vote.
Abe resigned last month due to chronic health problems that he has struggled with for years. Suga, widely expected to continue ramming through Abe’s policies and aggressive signature economic strategies, will serve out the remainder of the leadership term - which ends in September, 2021.
On the morning of Monday, September 14, Japanese media reported a majority win for Suga among party members - 70% of 141 votes.
Born to a family of strawberry farmers in Yuzawa city, Suga was expected to cruise to victory over party rivals - military expert and Abe critic Shigeru Ishiba, 63, and anti-nuclear advocate Fumio Kishida, also 63.
Suga will take over as Japan continues to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has caused the country’s biggest economic downturn on record and forced the country to postpone the Olympics until next year.
“If Abe had resigned a year ago, this would be a very different picture but now is not the time for the party to bet on a new leader who may have different ideas or radical visions,” Yuki Tatsumi, director of the Washington-based Stimson Center’s Japan program, previously told VICE News.