Yoshihide Suga wins party vote, all but assuring election as Japan PM

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gestures as he is elected as new head of the ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Party's leadership election.REUTERS
Newly elected leader of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party Yoshihide Suga (L) arrives at the party's headquarters to attend a press conference in TokyoAFP via Getty Images
Yoshihide Suga (R) presents flowers to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) after the ruling LDP party's leadership election in TokyoJIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

Yoshihide Suga, a loyal aide to outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, won a landslide victory in a ruling party leadership election Monday — all but assuring he will become the new prime minister when a parliamentary election is held later in the week.

The 71-year-old chief Cabinet secretary — who has said he would pursue Abe’s major economic and foreign policies — won 377 votes out of 534 votes cast, and 535 possible votes, in the Liberal Democratic Party election, according to Reuters.

Rival Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, won 68 votes, while former foreign minister Fumio Kishida got 89.

Suga is a virtual shoo-in to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the LDP’s majority in the lower house. He will serve out Abe’s term as party leader through September 2021.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, said last month that he would step down after nearly eight years in office because of ill health.

Suga thanked Abe and promised to push ahead with reforms.

“I was born as the oldest son of a farmer in Akita,” Suga said. “Without any knowledge or blood ties, I launched into the world of politics, starting from zero – and have been able to become leader of the LDP, with all its traditions and history.”

He added: “I will devote all of myself to work for Japan and its citizens.”

Suga has said his top priorities will be fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and turning around an economy battered by the outbreak.

“Now I’m handing the baton to new LDP President Suga,” Abe said after the vote. “We can count on him.”

With Post wires