Tokyo: Yoshihide Suga, the chief Cabinet secretary, on Monday won a landslide victory in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election, becoming the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Of the 534 votes — 393 LDP lawmakers and 141 party representatives from across the country — Suga won a comfortable 377 votes, or 70%. Policy Council Chairman Fumio Kishida secured just 89 votes, and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba received only 68 votes, The Japan Times reported.
The LDP which has a comfortable majority in the Lower House means that Suga is guaranteed to become the country’s prime minister on Wednesday.
The result is the culmination of a mere week long campaign to choose the country’s next leader, who Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself imagined would be Kishida while the public initially wanted Ishiba.
Suga, who has maintained a low public profile despite his high position in the cabinet, has been Abe’s loyal right-hand man. He initially trailed behind in the polls but came into the lead after mainstream LDP factions quickly formed a consensus and the public, shocked by Abe’s announcement of his departure, apparently had second thoughts about the current administration and preferred continuity over an abrupt policy shift, according to recent polls.
Suga will be taking over at a time when the country has been hit by a pandemic and economic slump and is grappling with national security issues, but pundits believe he will likely carry forward his predecessor’s policies.
Political analysts say Suga’s cabinet make up will be interesting to watch as to whether to keep critical posts such as finance, foreign, defense and internal affairs the same as in the Abe administration and also who will be succeeding Suga as the new Chief Cabinet Secretary — as well as the prospect of a snap election, which would be the first major test for Suga to demonstrate his aptitude as a long-term, trustworthy LDP leader capable of filling Abe’s shoes.