TOKYO (Reuters) – The leader of Japan’s ruling Yoshihide Suga party, queuing to become the next prime minister, appeared on Tuesday to continue the policies of his predecessors, keeping top cabinet ministers and party officials in office. them, as he had promised.
Suga, a loyal aide and chief cabinet secretary to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, won a landslide victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Monday. He vowed to continue with many of Abes’s programs, including his signature Abenomics economic strategy.
He faces a range of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 as he revives a damaged economy and is dealing with a rapidly aging society in which nearly a third of the population is older than 65 years.
Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are likely to remain in their positions, according to numerous media reports. Yasutoshi Nishimura is likely to be reappointed as economy minister.
Minister of Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician whom Suga saw as his mentor, is seen holding his post. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Maverick Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is also seen standing.
Defense Minister Taro Kono is expected to become administrative reform minister, and Nobuo Kishi, an LDP lawmaker who is Abes’s younger brother, will take over the defense portfolio, local media reported.
Toshihiro Nikai, who was helpful in helping Suga cement CDP members’ support and was re-appointed as party secretary general, told a news conference that the main priority was to tackle the new coronavirus, a view he made echo from party policy chief Hakubun Shimomura.
We will do everything we can to provide vaccines and medicines to protect people’s lives and health, as well as to support medical institutions, said Shimomura, a former education minister, adding that the revival of the economy will given an almost equal weight.
Suga could name Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, who has become known to the public as the face of the Japanese’s efforts to fight the coronavirus, as secretary of the main cabinet, Nippon TV said. Kato is close to Suga, under whom he served as deputy secretary of cabinet.
Many different elements are needed, Suga said Monday, when asked who should replace him. One is their adaptation to the prime minister, but thinking about it in general, they also need to have strengths, they will be more soothing.
Suga is virtually certain to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the LDP’s lower house majority. He will serve during Abes’ term as party leader until September 2021.
Best known for his behind-the-scenes work, Suga turned out to be the preferred replacement for Abe, the Japanese prime minister with a longer life, after Abe said last month that he would resign due to ill health.
There are widespread speculations that Suga could take advantage of strong support ratings to dissolve the lower house of parliament and call early elections to win a full three-year term as LDP chairman, but he seems cautious.
Reporting by Elaine Lies, Antoni Slodkowski, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Chang-ran Kim and Chris Gallagher; Edited by Gerry Doyle and Timothy Heritage
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