World

Japan’s Suga hopes to succeed PM Abe as race heats up

TOKYO: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will join the race to succeed Mr Shinzo Abe as prime minister, local media said yesterday, as the competition heats up to succeed Japan's longest-serving leader.

Mr Suga, a long-time lieutenant of Mr Abe's in a key supporting role, had denied interest in the top job but attracted attention with a series of interviews, in the days before Mr Abe's abrupt resignation for health reasons. A Suga government would extend the fiscal and monetary stimulus that defined Mr Abe's nearly eight years in office.

Mr Abe's announcement on Friday, citing a worsening of a chronic illness, set the stage for a leadership election within his Liberal Democratic Party.

The LDP president is virtually assured of being prime minister because of the party's majority in the lower house of Parliament.

Mr Suga decided to join the LDP race, judging that he should play a leading role given expectations for his ability to manage crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Japan's deepest postwar economic dive, Kyodo news agency said, citing a source.

Mr Suga would join such candidates as former foreign minister Fumio Kishida and former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, 39, has decided not to run, but he would back Defence Minister Taro Kono, NHK said.

Former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda and former defence minister Tomomi Inada are interested in seeking to become Japan's first female premier, media reported.

CHOSEN

Mr Suga, a self-made politician in a country of political dynasties, was chosen by Mr Abe in 2012 for the pivotal role of chief cabinet secretary, acting as top government spokesman, coordinating policies and riding herd on bureaucrats.

"I'm thinking of running in the LDP leadership race. I'd like you to support me," Mr Suga told LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai in a secret meeting on Saturday, TV Tokyo reported.

Mr Nikai's faction will likely support Mr Suga if he runs, Mr Takeo Kawamura, a senior faction official, told reporters after a meeting of the group. - REUTERS

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