Yoshihide Suga, Japan's former chief cabinet secretary, poses Monday for a portrait following his election as Liberal Democratic Party president, in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Nicolas Datiche/EPA-EFE/Pool

Suga elected LDP president, expected to replace Abe as Japan PM


Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Yoshihide Suga captured the Liberal Democratic Party presidency in Japan Monday, almost assuring that he will officially replace Shinzo Abe as prime minister in a vote later this week.

Suga, 71, beat out two other major rivals for the leadership post, former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida.

The Liberal Democratic Party controls Japan's House of Representatives and holds a majority in the House of Councilors, making Suga the favorite to become prime minister when a Diet vote occurs on Wednesday.

Suga, Abe's chief cabinet secretary, has been described as a loyalist who trailed early in the polls but quickly gathered mainstream party backing.

"We need to inherit and facilitate policies promoted by Prime Minister Abe in order for us to overcome this crisis and for each and every individual to have a safe and stable life," Suga told a joint meeting of party members. "I recognize that I carry that mission."

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced his resignation last month due to health issues. He said his health has deteriorated since mid-July and he didn't want the issue to affect government.

Suga said the fact he doesn't belong to any political faction was an advantage for him during the election, but some worry a lack of a power base could become a hindrance as he tries to govern.

"Because a leader with a relatively weak power base would have only gotten to this position because of the votes supplied by the powerful [factions], he will do their bidding, knowing that if he doesn't, they'll withdraw their support and he'll be replaced," Amy Catalinac, assistant professor of politics at New York University, said.

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