Campaign to select Abe’s successor begins in Japan

Yoshihide Suga  

The official campaigning to head Japan’s ruling party began on Tuesday, with outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-time right-hand man now seen as a front-runner to succeed him and complete his unfinished business, including coronavirus and economic measures.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 71, formally submitted his candidacy for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership on Tuesday after announcing his intention to run last week. The top government spokesman faces two younger contenders, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, both 63. The winner of the in-party vote on September 14 will eventually become Japan’s next Prime Minister because of the ruling bloc’s parliamentary majority. Mr. Abe is stepping down for health reasons.

Mr. Suga is a latecomer favoured among party heavyweights as the best candidate to continue Mr. Abe’s policies.

They have reportedly lined up to support him in hopes of getting favourable party and Cabinet posts in his administration. Newspaper opinion surveys have also shown Mr. Suga surpassing the former favourite Mr. Ishiba among the public.

Mr. Suga pledged to carry out the challenges left behind by Mr. Abe, including measures on the coronavirus and the economic fallout.

“I will succeed Prime Minister Abe’s policies and push them forward,” Mr. Suga said at a candidates’ speaking event. “As we face the national crisis, we should never allow any political vacuum, and there is no time to waste.”

“We must prevent the explosive spread of coronavirus infections as in the U.S. and Europe, no matter what,” Mr. Suga said. “We will have to protect the people’s lives and health, while also maintaining economic and social activity.”

The son of a farmer in the northern prefecture of Akita, Mr. Suga is a self-made politician, a rarity in Japan’s largely hereditary business of politics and a particularly sharp contrast to Mr. Abe, the political blue-blood whose grandfather was also a Prime Minister.

Mr. Suga said he has never lost affection for rural communities like his hometown and endeavoured to break down bureaucratic barriers to serve the need and interest of ordinary people, including in disaster prevention, lowering cellphone fees and bolstering foreign tourism.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 3:38:51 PM |

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