Suga elected Japan’s new prime minister as Abe steps down

(Update 1 adds Suga’s election pars 1-6, new headline)

Tokyo, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Yoshihide Suga was elected new prime minister of Japan Wednesday, replacing Shinzo Abe, who had resigned for health reasons after nearly eight years in office.

Suga, 71, the former chief cabinet secretary and Abe’s top government spokesperson, received 314 votes out of the 462 cast in an extraordinary session of the Lower House of the Diet, Japan’s parliament.

Once elected in the Lower House, the more powerful of the two chambers, the vote moved to the Upper House, where the ruling Liberal Democratic Party also has a majority.

On Monday, the LDP elected Suga as its new leader.

Once Abe’s right-hand man in the administration that began in 2012, Suga will now lead the LDP until September 2021 to complete the term that Abe left incomplete due to his resignation.

Suga will now be tasked with reviving the economy while keeping the COVID-19 epidemic under control.

Abe thanked the public on Wednesday hours before stepping down, along with his Cabinet.

“I have spent every day putting my all into economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s interests,” he told reporters at the prime minister’s office early Wednesday.

Abe said he was proud to have taken on challenges with the Japanese public and thanked them for their support since he returned to power in December 2012.

He urged them to extend the same support and understanding to the new administration.

When asked about his health and the chronic ulcerative colitis that had led to his resignation on Aug. 28, both on this occasion and during his brief first term between 2006 and 2007, Abe said that the treatment was working and that he is recovering.

The politician said he will support Suga’s government as lawmaker, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Abe made the statements hours after posting a video on the official Twitter account of the prime’s minister’s office, known as kantei, in which he appreciated the “likes” and comments posted on the platform which, he said, encouraged his cabinet to take on challenges.

Abe added in the video that while challenges remained, he had accomplished several that had divided national opinion during his time in office.

The minute-long video shows images of his last years at the helm of the government, including his participation in the race to organize the 2020 Olympic Games, former United States president Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, his appearances at G7 and G20 summits and meetings with leaders from around the world.

Speculation about Abe’s health had intensified recently following the prime minister’s recent visits to a hospital in the capital and some reports of health problems.

The prime minister said in a press conference that he was resigning as his health condition was not perfect and poor health could lead to erroneous political decisions. EFE-EPA


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