Graphic shows a factfile on Yoshihide Suga.
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POLITICS

Yoshihide Suga in pole position to succeed Shinzo Abe

By Jordi Bou

September 14, 2020 - Yoshihide Suga, 71, a longtime aide to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is heavily favoured to win the ruling party’s leadership race after securing the backing of its most powerful factions.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a longtime loyal assistant and the public face of outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in daily media briefings, is seen as someone who can ensure the continuation of Abe’s policies, including strengthening Japan's security alliance with the U.S., dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and shoring up the economy.

The son of a strawberry grower in the northern prefecture of Akita, Suga is a self-made politician, a rarity in Japan’s largely hereditary business of politics.

He earned his own tuition while working several part-time jobs to graduate from a university in Tokyo. He entered politics as secretary to a lawmaker for 11 years and served as a city assemblyman for nearly nine years before he was elected to parliament in 1994.

As Japan's longest-serving chief Cabinet secretary, Suga is a policy coordinator and adviser to Abe — the point man behind the centralized power of the Prime Minister's Office that influences bureaucrats to implement policies.

He has earned a reputation for his matter-of-fact twice-daily televised media briefings. He’s become known as “Uncle Reiwa” after he was tasked with unveiling the new imperial era name for Emperor Naruhito last year.

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since his first stint as prime minister in 2006-2007, which ended abruptly because of Abe's health problems, and helped him return to power in 2012 after six years of annual leadership changes.

The next prime minister will finish the rest of Abe’s term, until September 2021. There are no female contenders.

PUBLISHED: 04/09/2020; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images
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