Japan gets a new head of government after eight years. Major challenges await 71-year-old Suga of the Liberal Democratic Party as Shinzo Abe’s successor.
Japan’s ruling party, the LDP, has elected Yoshihide Suga as the party leader and thus de facto as the country’s new prime minister. By the majority of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the relevant lower house, Suga is also certain of the election as head of government of the third largest economy in the world on Wednesday.
The 71-year-old previous cabinet secretary and government spokesman says he wants to continue his policy as successor to party and government leader Shinzo Abe, who recently announced his resignation on health grounds. However, according to political analysts, Suga lacks visions for Japan and experience with foreign policy.
Choice was a matter of form
In Monday’s election, Suga clearly triumphed against ex-Secretary of State Fumio Kishida (89 votes) by 377 votes. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is considered reformist and has distinguished himself as a rare internal critic of Abes, received just 68 votes.
The election of Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man as cabinet secretary for nearly eight years, was seen as a formality. Because he had previously gained the support of major party power groups in the back rooms of the LDP, which ruled almost continuously for decades. In return, these power groups can now expect their people to receive cabinet posts from Suga when the government is formed.
Suga’s somewhat lazy look has the image of a dry, old-fashioned politician. His father was a farmer from a village in Akita in the cold north of Japan, his mother a teacher. Suga studied law and politics in Tokyo, and at the age of 47 he entered parliament. In the LDP, which is dominated by political dynasties, the rise of a man like Suga to the top is unusual. “Even in his wildest dreams, he could never have imagined that he would one day become prime minister,” Sophia University political professor Koichi Nakano told the German news agency in Tokyo.
The research results are currently good
Suga owes this not least to Abe. Suga knew how to control the powerful bureaucrats and ignored obnoxious questions from journalists at his daily press conferences. In this way, he was nearly eight years behind Abe, whose poll numbers had also fallen due to nepotism scandals.
How long Suga, who does not have a power group of its own in the LDP, can rule remains to be seen. It is speculated that he could call new parliamentary elections soon. His polls are currently good.
Unlike his previous boss Abe, who was driven by sentimental nationalism, wanted to make Japan a proud and “beautiful” country again and was known for its close relationship with US President Donald Trump, Suga seems less interested in ideology.
Implementation of specific steps aimed at
It’s also hard to imagine the frail Suga going to trap Trump in the same way that Abe did. According to observers, Suga believes that the G7 country of Japan primarily needs a strong private sector to be taken seriously worldwide.
He is engaged in the implementation of concrete, pragmatic steps. To help villages suffering from emigration, he initiated a tax process in which city people can choose to pass their local taxes on to rural communities rather than urban communities.
To polish his image, photos of him were circulating just before his internal party election, which should show him as a relaxed person with a soft spot for sweet pancakes. He also has a black belt in karate and should do 100 torso bends every morning. What he lacks, according to political observers, are visions.
Suga wants to continue with “Abenomics”
As a future prime minister, Suga takes over many unfinished business from his predecessor. The economy, which Abe sought to pull out of stagnation with its “Abenomics” policy of loose monetary policy, debt-funded economic stimulus programs and the promise of reform, has entered a deep recession in the wake of the corona crisis. Suga still wants to continue with the “Abenomics”. After all, she has created millions of jobs.
In addition, there is the rapid aging of society and the desertification of rural areas during migration to the major cities. The world’s third largest economy also faces major foreign policy challenges. Relations with China, which are difficult due to island disputes and Japan’s handling of its war past, have recently improved.
By contrast, relations with South Korea are under severe strain due to a trade dispute. Japan has been fighting with Russia for decades over the Kuril Islands in the Pacific. Observers expect Suga, lacking experience and interest in foreign policy, to bring an experienced Foreign Minister into the cabinet.