Suga announces candidature to replace Abe as Japanese prime minister

Tokyo, Sep 2 (efe-epa).- Yoshihide Suga, the front runner to replace Shinzo Abe as the Japanese prime minister, formally announced Wednesday his candidacy to lead the ruling party and underlined that he would seek to continue the policies of his predecessor.

Suga, 71, has been Abe’s right-hand man since 2012, serving as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and will now seek to take over the reins of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), something that appears almost certain thanks to the political support he has received in recent days.

“The road ahead is not flat, but we must not stop Shinzo Abe’s reform process,” Suga said at a press conference at the LDP headquarters, which of late has become a hotbed of meetings following Abe’s announcement to step down on health grounds.

Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s recent history, announced Friday his decision to resign midway through his current term as the LDP leader, which was to end in September 2021.

The decision took the ruling party by surprise, more so since he had not indicated any preferred candidate to succeed him. Among the likely candidates that have emerged, Suga is the one to have garnered the most support from the different factions in the party.

The LDP on Wednesday announced that the internal election for a successor will take place on Sep.14, and political sources confirmed that the Diet (Parliament) will meet two days later to appoint the prime minister, who will be the candidate proposed by the ruling party.

Suga, during his press conference, did not speak of specific measures he would like to focus on if elected – something appears almost certain as per forecasts -, but highlighted the challenges facing the country, among them Covid-19 and its economic effects.

Suga denied that Abe’s departure had left a political vacuum, and expressed willingness to continue the efforts made by him and move forward.

The next leader of the LDP elected on Sep.14 will remain in charge until September 2021, when Abe’s term was scheduled to conclude.

At the press conference, Suga recalled his humble origins, as the firstborn of a farmer from the northern prefecture of Akita, as well as his fledgling political career until he was elected to the lower house of the Diet at the age of 47.

In line with his role as the spokesperson of the government, Suga extolled Abe’s management and his economic policies – dubbed “Abenomics” – and promised to respect the prevailing relationship between the government and the Bank of Japan (central bank).

Following the announcement of Suga’s candidature, the possibilities of former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida – contenders for the position of LDP chief – getting elected are minimal. EFE-EPA


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