Japanese ruling party leader Yoshihide Suga was elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday, becoming the country’s first new premier in nearly eight years.
Suga’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party used its majority in the powerful lower house of parliament, which is empowered to pick the premier, to elect him to lead the world’s third largest economy as it tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Following the vote, Suga is due to enter the Prime Minister’s Office as the new leader and name his cabinet later in the day.
Suga’s appointment, two days after he was selected as LDP leader, brings the curtain down on outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s record run of almost eight consecutive years in the country’s top job. The 71-year-old Suga, who previously served as Abe’s right-hand man, has pledged to keep in place his former boss’s flexible fiscal stance and ultra-easy monetary policy known as “Abenomics.”
Any sign of a departure from Abenomics could send the yen surging and stocks sliding, triggering a re-evaluation of the outlook for the nation. The Topix index briefly fell when Abe announced on Aug. 28 his intent to resign, but quickly steadied itself since then, with market players seeing Suga as embracing continuity.
In contrast with Abe’s rarefied political pedigree, Suga hails from a rural area in northern Japan and took a job in a cardboard box factory when he first moved to Tokyo. He worked his way through university, before starting his political career as a secretary to a politician. He was first elected to parliament in 1996.
Suga’s home of Akita prefecture, where his family farmed strawberries, is one of the areas most affected by the economic malaise born of Japan’s shrinking and aging population.