Published: Tue, September 15, 2020
Economy | By

Suga to reappoint Aso as Japan's finance minister

Suga to reappoint Aso as Japan's finance minister

Now, Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary and top government spokesman, appears on track to step into the prime minister's shoes after winning a decisive victory in the vote to lead the ruling LDP party.

The election was triggered by Abe's sudden announcement in late August that he would resign for health reasons.

Suga's political fortunes have been closely tied to Abe since he won a lower house seat in 1996, and many cite him as the main influence in Abe's decision to run for prime minister a second time following a first period in office that ended disastrously after just a year.

While there is speculation that he may form a caretaker Cabinet that mainly keeps key members from the Abe government, Suga said he might as well pick reform-minded people willing to carry out his policies.

His career in politics began in 1987, when he reportedly wore out half a dozen pairs of shoes while canvassing, successfully, for a seat on the Yokohama city assembly, where he became known as the "shadow mayor".

Disciplined, focused, pragmatic - and masterfully skilled at bureaucratic wrangling - Mr Suga, 71, is well established in Japan as a powerful policy coordinator, advisor and all-round right-hand man of the outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe.

© Provided by The Guardian Young women take selfies as a large screen broadcasts Yoshihide Suga unveiling "Reiwa" as the new era name in Tokyo, Japan, April 2019.

Land minister Kazuyoshi Akaba, who belongs to the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito, and Olympics and Paralympics minister Seiko Hashimoto will also be retained in the new cabinet, the sources said. Some bureaucrats who have opposed his policies have reportedly been removed from projects or transferred elsewhere.

Suga has earned a reputation for wielding his power to control Japan's sprawling and powerful bureaucracy and help push through government policies. He has credited himself for those efforts in achieving a booming foreign tourism industry in Japan, lowering cellphone bills and bolstering agricultural exports.

Suga appointed Seiko Noda and Tamayo Marukawa, two female lawmakers, as the party's executive acting secretary general and head of its Public Relations Headquarters, respectively.

Despite speculation that Suga may be a caretaker for the remainder of Abe's scheduled term, which was to end in September 2021, he may actually last longer, according to analysts.

On foreign policy, Suga will continue to prioritise Japan's security ties with the United States in the face of an assertive China and nuclear-armed North Korea, although he admitted on Sunday that he lacked the "diplomatic skills" that helped Abe forge a close personal relationship with Donald Trump.

In addition to the coronavirus and the economic fallout, Suga stands to inherit several other challenges, including China, which continues its assertive actions in the East China Sea. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whoever wins the US presidential race.

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