Japan’s parliament has elected Yoshihide Suga as their new prime minister after Shinzo Abe’s surprise resignation.
Suga won the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership contest by a landslide on Monday with Wednesday’s vote confirming his new role.
Shinzo Abe, who was Japan’s longest serving premier, stepped down after eight years citing ill health. Earlier on Wednesday he held his final cabinet meeting and said: “Many issues still remain, but there are things we achieved and made reality.”
Suga is Japan’s first new leader in nearly eight years but he takes over at a difficult time for the country. The 71-year-old will be tasked with reviving a battered economy that shrank more than 28 per cent in the second quarter, more than initially estimated.
This was mostly due to a 4.7 per cent drop in capital expenditure, suggesting the pandemic had hit broader sectors of the economy.
Suga served for years as chief cabinet secretary under Abe, the most senior role after the prime minister. And he has already promised continuity in the major policy initiatives launched by Abe, notably his “Abenomics” economic strategy.
This, along with keeping many familiar faces in the cabinet, may go some way in easing the transition.
In a notable appointment, Sugar chose Abe’s younger brother Nobuo Kishi as his defence minister. Two power brokers in the party – Taro Ashi and Toshihiro Nikai – will stay as finance minister and secretary-general respectively.
“It’s the cabinet of a newcomer who doesn’t want to risk any failures,” Jun Azumi, parliamentary chair of the opposition Constitutional Democratic party said.
Suga comes from a humble background, having worked his way up the ranks becoming a cabinet minister under Junichiro Koizumi in 2005.
Boris Johnson congratulated Yoshihide Sugar on his appointment. “I hope your appointment and the historic Free Trade Agreement we secured last week take the already rock solid relationship between our countries to new heights,” the PM said on Twitter.