Yoshihide Suga succeeds Shinzo Abe as Japan’s leader

New Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga speaking following his confirmation as prime minister in Tokyo on Sept 16 2020

Japan's Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday, becoming the country's first new leader in almost eight years, as he readied a "continuity cabinet" expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe's lineup.

"According to the results, our house has made a decision to name Yoshihide Suga prime minister", lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima told parliament after the votes were counted.

Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring he would succeed Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health.

Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary, acting as top government spokesman and coordinating policies.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles - so-called bureaucratic silos - than any grand political guiding principles.

He has said he will pursue his predecessor's unfinished policies, adding that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. More of the same, he says.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Suga on his appointment and said he was looking forward to jointly take the "special strategic and global partnership" between the two countries to new heights.

He has praised Abe's diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

Taro Aso remained in his position as finance minister and Toshimitsu Motegi kept his job as foreign minister. Of the 20 reported Cabinet members, only five of them are rookie ministers, including Abe's younger brother Nobuo Kishi, who will be the new defence minister.

There too, experts say, he is likely to tread the path charted by Abe, prioritising the key relationship with the United States, whoever is president after November's election.

Abe will stay on as a lawmaker and has pledged to support Suga, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

On Wednesday morning as he prepared to resign, Abe said he had given "all my strength" and was ending his tenure "with a sense of pride".



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