Japan's ruling party chooses a successor to Prime Minister Abe

Japan's ruling party on Monday voted in favor of its next leader, with top government adviser Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe expected to be the country's new prime minister.

Japan's ruling party chooses a successor to Prime Minister Abe

Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, has been given’ a strong lead in winning the Liberal Democratic Party ballot, with Wednesday's parliamentary vote set him up for the country's top job.

Before he formally announced his candidacy, the 71-year-old has garnered the support of key factions within the ruling party, and his candidacy was seen’ as a sign of hopeful stability and continuation of Abe's policies. Was

The LDP has elected only its legislators in parliament and three representatives from each of the country's 47 regions, including a broader referendum that includes members of rank and file. Officials say it takes more time to organize.

In that form, Suga is expected to gain strength against two rivals, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida.

Kishida is popular with Japanese voters, but some in her party have expressed skepticism that she once left her ranks and challenged Abe's leadership.

Kishida was previously seen’ as Abe's favorite successor, but he appeared to have lost his favor just months before he decided to step down as prime minister.

Abe, who broke Japan's longest-serving term as prime minister for more than eight years on two terms, refused to support any candidate.

He announced in shock that he would step down with one year left in his mandate at the end of August, saying that the recurrence of his long-term blueprints would keep him going. Impossible.

If Suga succeeds, analysts say no major policy is on the reverse agenda, and the candidate himself says his race is aimed’ at ensuring the continuity of Abe's key policies.

- Snap election? -

The next prime minister will face complex challenges.

The country was already in recession before the coronavirus epidemic, and the signing of the Abenomics economic policy is now in jeopardy.

Suga said the economy would be a top priority to kick-start, and that there was a virus. If necessary, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled’ to open in July 2021.

Diplomatic challenges are also on the agenda, including protecting the US alliance and navigating relations with China, as global opinion against Beijing is strong in the wake of the coronavirus and unrest in Hong Kong.

"Now is a difficult time for Japan because the United States is putting pressure on China," said Makoto Iokibe, a professor of political and diplomatic history at Hugo University.

"But Washington is moving in the same direction and it is not in Japan's interest to escalate tensions with China," he told AFP.

It remains to be seen’ whether Soga will decide to call a snap general election to consolidate his position and avoid being seen as a caretaker facing a new vote in a year - when Abe's mandate Would have ended

Possibly in early October, several senior government officials have raised the possibility, but so far only Suga has been’ covered.

A large part of Japan's fierce opposition has recently gathered in a new bloc, which it hopes will pose a strong challenge to a ruling party that has been in power for all but a few years in the last six decades. Is occupied

But the LDP will still have overwhelming support in any new election, even if Suga's personal appeal to voters is an open question.

"Mr. Suga is capable of controlling bureaucrats and enforcing policies, but his weakness is in winning the hearts of the people."


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