TOKYO, September 16 ------ Japanese ruling party president Yoshihide Suga was poised to become the nation’s next prime minister on Wednesday, pulling together a “continuity” cabinet, about half of which will not change from the current makeup, local media reported. Suga, a longtime aide and chief cabinet secretary under outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Monday won a landslide victory to take over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He pledged to carry on many of Abe’s programmes, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy.
He faces numerous challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society, in which nearly a third of the population is older than 65. Abe, whose support was critical in ensuring Suga’s victory in the party election this week, entered the prime minister’s office on the last day of his tenure and thanked the people of Japan, vowing to support the incoming government as a regular member of parliament. Abe added that the medicine he’s taking for his chronic illness is working that and he is recovering.
Earlier, in a video posted on Twitter, he said: “Your likes and comments were a big support and helped us accomplish a lot. Sadly, some issues have been left undone.” According to media reports, roughly half the cabinet will be made up of people from the Abe cabinet, and there are only two women. Among those retaining their jobs are key players such as Finance Minister Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and several others, including Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi.
Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is expected to be tapped for the defense portfolio, while current Defense Minister Taro Kono will take charge of administrative reform. Yasutoshi Nishimura is likely to be reappointed as economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, is seen as retaining his post. Katsunobu Kato, the health minister who became the face of Japan’s response to the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, will take over the key chief cabinet secretary post from Suga. “Many different elements are needed,” Suga said on Monday, when asked about who should replace him. “One is their fit with the prime minister, but thinking about it overall, they also need to have broad strengths, that will be the most calming.”