Tokyo : Yoshihide Suga has been elected Japan’s new Prime Minister following a vote in the country’s Parliament on Wednesday, confirming the former cardboard factory worker and farmer’s son as leader of the world’s third largest economy.
The 71-year-old head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) replaces outgoing leader Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, who announced his intention to resign in August due to health problems related to colitis — a non-curable inflammatory bowel disease that he was able to manage for most of his tenure.
Suga was elected LDP leader on Monday with about 70% of the votes, but he still required the backing of the country’s national legislature, the Diet, before he could officially become Prime Minister.
He won the Diet vote with 314 out of 465 votes in the lower house and 142 out of 240 votes in the upper chamber.
The new Prime Minister will next announce his cabinet line up, which is expected to include a large number of former Abe appointees, before being sworn in by Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday afternoon.
The appointment of Suga as Abe’s replacement isn’t surprising. Suga was the former Japanese leader’s right-hand man during Abe’s almost eight years in office throughout his second term, holding the important position of chief cabinet secretary in his government — a combination of chief of staff and press secretary.
Suga is known as a successful political operator, who can get things done, and worked hand-in-hand with the former leader to implement “Abenomics” — a series of economic policies designed to boost Japan’s flagging economy.
In fact, Suga is so closely tied to the former Prime Minister that Kazuto Suzuki, a vice dean and professor of international politics at Hokkaido University, described him as an “Abe substitute.”