As chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga spent nearly eight years as the right-hand man to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Now, as Suga prepares to take on the country’s top job in the parliamentary vote that guarantees it all on Wednesday, he needs to use his political contract-making skills and his knowledge of Japan’s complex bureaucracy. Challenges.
“As long as Suga is there, no one is,” Kyoki Aburaki, managing director of Bower Group Asia in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera. “He knows everything. He knows how the government works. He knows how sectionalism has prevented change in the past. It is a great asset to him.”
The 71-year-old son of a strawberry farmer, Suga is ready to take the lead after years of stagnation in the Japanese economy – and already struggling with the long-term effects of the world’s aging population. Body injury by COVID-19.
Japan’s caseload may be much lower than many other countries, but the world’s third-largest economy fell by a record 27.8 percent from April to June this year, with the pandemic lockdowns eased only in late May compared to the previous quarter.
The decline has put more pressure on the government to take action – This is Japan’s third-quarter contraction – the eye-watering approach to public debt that has left policy makers less and less room for maneuver.
“The financial situation is very serious now,” Sunio said Sasakawa Peace Foundation Senior Fellow Watanabe told Al Jazeera. “Combined with COVID-19, I do not think any Japanese leader in the future will have the opportunity to push such a big stimulus.”
Abe is obedient
Unlike its predecessors, Suga did not come from a particular background and did not belong to the powerful factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
In the face of the Abe government – helming regular press conferences as its chief spokesperson – Suga downplayed a foolish man, but he hopes to move forward with his own programs, such as bureaucratic reform, digitization and assistance to rural Japan through policies on agriculture. And tourism.
The fight against coronavirus is a priority, but he also suggested continuity Abenomics’ comprehensive policy framework, Abe’s signature policy and monetary easing, government spending and a three – pronged strategy of structural reform.
Those structural reforms can mitigate Japan’s impact on the aging population by making it easier for women to work, opening doors to immigrants and easing labor laws. Already, one-fourth of Japanese are 65 or older, and by 2065 that number is expected to increase to one-third, according to official estimates. That means working age is low and people are low and tax is low.
Japan shrinks: Coronavirus plunges economy into record contraction
“To overcome the crisis and bring relief to the Japanese people, we must succeed in what Prime Minister Abe is implementing,” Suga said Monday after winning the LDP leadership contest. “This is my goal. “
The new Prime Minister will also find challenges on the international stage.
Abe faced foreign policy during his tenure – forging improbable ties with United States President Donald Trump, reaching out to China, Russia and India, and concentrating decision-making power within the Prime Minister’s Office.
Suga, who has been assigned a key role in US air bases on the southern island of Okinawa, was also associated with Suga, who met with US Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to Washington in May last year – a trip that fueled rumors about him. Leadership aspirations.
The U.S. elections are now looming large over trade-offs in Hong Kong and the treatment of mainly Muslim extremists, and China-US relations have further deteriorated.
Suga’s term as party leader ends in September 2021 – and Japan is due to hold elections by October next year.
The LDP, which co-governs with the smaller party Komito since 2012, has a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, the lower house of Japan’s National Diet..
Although the ruling party hopes to win any contest, the opposition has already realized the possibility of ending the long-term dominance of the LDP. The newly merged opposition force was announced on Tuesday.
“Opposition is very easy to attract people and people believe it when the economy is bad,” said Watanabe of the Saskatchewan Peace Foundation. “This is a big challenge for Suga, because it will reduce his majority and some in the party may challenge him.”
Negotiations are now underway to see if Suga can choose a snap poll to take advantage of the recent surge in its popularity and avoid a clash with the COVID-19 late Tokyo Olympics, now July 2021.
The knowledge that periods of consistent leadership in Japan are following the revolving door of weak and short-lived governments is at the back of his mind – most recently after the resignation of the popular and charismatic Junichiro Koizumi in 2006.
Koizumi’s departure first led to Abe, who resigned less than a year ago due to ill health, and the LDP eventually lost power to the Democrats only a second time since 1955. It was only when Abe returned for a second time – at Suga’s request – that stability was restored.
Suga said being outside the party factions is a strength, but it also proves his weakness. Faction leaders can easily withdraw their support for his leadership if they ignore their demands and the wings of powerful politicians are waiting in the wings if Suga fails.
The new prime minister will announce his cabinet as soon as he takes office on Wednesday, and many ministers from the Abe administration are expected to continue their jobs.
If Suga wants to continue his popularity with his party and the people, he will have to show himself more than Abe, who has re-packed himself.
“If Abe’s tenure suggests anything to those who follow in his footsteps, the Japanese people want a stable government, but even more so, they want innovative and courageous ideas to move forward,” wrote Sheila Smith, a senior Japanese colleague, in an analysis of Japanese politics following Abe’s analysis of Japanese politics. “In the post-Abe era, it is important to provide this need for hope.”