Suga to reshuffle LDP leadership, retain Nikai as secretary general

Marco Green
September 15, 2020

New Liberal Democratic Party President Yoshihide Suga is set on Tuesday to reshuffle the Japanese ruling party's leadership, retaining Toshihiro Nikai as secretary general while naming former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as policy chief.

"The only reason Suga got the premiership is because he vowed to continue Abe's policies, so for a new prime minister he is unusually constrained by the record and legacy of the previous government", said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Now the chief cabinet secretary, Suga took 377 of a total of 534 votes against the two other contenders, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Experts say Suga is pragmatic rather than ideological, and he is seen by lawmakers along the political spectrum within the LDP as a neutral figure. Abe, on the other hand, is a third-generation politician and the grandson of a former prime minister.

"I was born as the oldest son of a farmer in Akita", Suga said after Monday's election.

© Provided by The Guardian Merchandise featuring Japan's expected new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is displayed at a store in his home town of Yuzawa.

He moved to Tokyo after high school and worked odd jobs to put himself through night college, before being elected to his first office in 1987, as a municipal assembly member in Yokohama outside Tokyo.

Suga has said his top priorities are fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin congratulated Suga and expressed willingness "to deepen cooperation in the fight against the epidemic and economic and social development, and continuously promote improvement and development of China-Japan relations".

"Having served as Abe's defender-in chief, Suga can not disown Abe and push through major policy transformation without incurring strong criticism". He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to next summer due to the coronavirus. He said he wanted to solve the issue of Japanese nationals captured by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

Yoshihide Suga, who is set to become Japan's next prime minister, is considering appointing health minister Katsunobu Kato as Chief Cabinet Secretary while retaining others in key cabinet posts, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Despite speculation that Suga may be a caretaker for the remainder of Abe's scheduled term, which was to end in September 2021, he may actually last longer, according to analysts. And he will have to build a relationship with whoever wins the US presidential race.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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