Last month, Abe announced his retirement for health reasons.
Suga, 71, is the chief cabinet secretary in the ongoing government. He was widely predicted to win.
Suga is seen as a figure close to Abe and has the potential to continue his policies.
Suga won the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election vote by a large margin. It won 377 out of a total of 534 votes by parliamentarians and regional representatives.
Now that the LDP has a new leader, voting will be held in parliament on Wednesday (16/9/2020), where Suga is almost certain to be elected prime minister given the LDP majority vote.
Suga, who replaces Abe in the middle of the term, is predicted to become prime minister until the end of the term. The next general election is scheduled for September 2021.
Yoshihide Suga – veteran politician, son the farmer
Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer couple, is a veteran politician.
Given his central role as chief cabinet secretary in the government, it is suspected that he will provide continuity when leading the interim government until elections are held in 2021.
“Shinzo Abe and other party heads voted for and joined the coalition of supporters of Suga precisely because he was the best ‘sustainability’ candidate, someone they think can continue Abe’s rule without Abe,” said Koichi Nakano, dean and professor of political science at Sophia University at Tokyo, to BBC.
Although not considered the most energetic or passionate politician, Suga has a reputation for being efficient and practical.
One of his most talked about appearances recently was the change of power from the previous emperor, Akihito, to the current emperor, Naruhito, in 2019.
Suga is tasked with announcing the name of the new imperial era, Reiwa, to Japanese citizens and the global community.
Although he was the favorite candidate for the LDP leader after Abe stepped down, it remains unclear whether he will lead the party in next year’s elections.
Observers say party dynamics can change to place a more energetic person as their leader in order to reach a wider range of voters.
Who are the candidates for the leadership of the LDP?
Two other candidates also ran.
Fumio Kashida was foreign minister under Shinzo Abe, but in the past three years, he has chaired the policy research board at the LDP.
When compared to Suga, this 63-year-old politician has more international diplomacy experience, but he does not have the support of Abe.
The third candidate is Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary general who was defense minister at the start of Abe’s administration.
Of the three candidates, Ishiba, also 63 years old, was the only one trying to keep his distance from Abe. He hopes to be seen as a new beginning after Abe resigns.
Although Ishiba and Kishida are not considered to have a realistic chance of fighting against Suga, their candidacy might put them in a good position for the 2021 elections after this term of government ends.
What are the Japanese political projections?
This leadership transition occurred at a time when Japan was experiencing difficulties. Japan is still battling the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused an economic downturn throughout the country’s history.
Abe’s long-term project of overhauling the Japanese economy, known as ‘Abenomic’, has shown no progress, even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Japanese economy has in recent years been stagnant, experiencing recession, or growing very slowly.
The government’s plans to reform the post-war pacifist constitution have also not been implemented.
Abe wants to amend one part of the constitution to officially recognize the Japanese military, which has been known as the Self-Defense Force (SDF). They are basically prohibited from participating in any international military obligations.
The new government under Suga’s leadership can provide stability to all of these plans.
However, during his tenure as chief cabinet secretary, Suga “was seriously lacking in vision,” according to Nakano.
“The only slogan he came up with was ‘help yourself, help others and help society’ – it emphasizes self-help and neoliberal self-responsibility in times of pandemics, which expose many people to economic vulnerability.”
The next election for the Diet, or lower tier in parliament, is scheduled for September 2021.
Before that, there may be another leader election within the LDP.
The election will be more of a question of who can get more votes in the election than who can promise sustainability, say observers.
Why did Shinzo Abe resign?
Abe said he didn’t want his illness to interfere with decision making. He apologized to Japanese citizens for failing to complete the period of his reign.
The 65-year-old man has been suffering from ulcerative colitis in his digestive system for a long time, but he said his disease has gotten worse recently.
Last year, he became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. The current government period began in 2012.
He resigned suddenly from his post as prime minister in 2007, also because of his chronic health condition.