Suga launches new LDP leadership

Three candidates will battle for the ruling party leadership with the winner tipped to become Japan's next prime minister

Three candidates will battle for the ruling party leadership with the winner tipped to become Japan's next prime minister

Suga, who was picked to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Monday, is set to be named premier in an extraordinary Diet session on Wednesday.

The expected victory in the party vote by Suga, now the chief Cabinet secretary of Abe's government, all but guarantees his election in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the majority held by the Liberal Democrats' ruling coalition.

Now the chief cabinet secretary, Suga took 377 of a total of 534 votes against the two other contenders, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Suga received 377 votes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party election to pick a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced last month that he would resign due to health problems.

The 71-year-old is widely seen as the Abe continuity candidate, a label he has done little to contradict during his leadership bid.

There is some belief that Suga may only serve for the rest of Abe's term as prime minister, which was to end in September 2021. His current period in office began in 2012.

Suga appointed Seiko Noda and Tamayo Marukawa, two female lawmakers, as the party's executive acting secretary general and head of its Public Relations Headquarters, respectively. This is unusual in Japan, as politicians usually come from powerful families.

Suga has said his top priorities are fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. He served as the government's spokesman and chief cabinet secretary.

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"I will devote the whole of myself to Japan and the Japanese people".

On foreign policy, Suga will continue to prioritise Japan's security ties with the U.S. in the face of an assertive China and nuclear-armed North Korea, although he admitted on Sunday that he lacked the "diplomatic skills" that helped Abe forge a close personal relationship with Donald Trump.

He also will have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics.

According to a report in The Mainichi, Suga was relatively unknown until April 2019, when he unveiled the name of the new imperial era that earned him the nickname "Uncle Reiwa".

Suga has said he wants to maintain communication and develop strategic ties with China and South Korea despite rocky relations with them. And he will have to build a relationship with whoever wins the USA presidential race.

Suga is known to have helped smooth out differences by keeping close ties with a centrist coalition partner, Komeito.

But he says he has a weakness: He loves candies, namely pancakes and Japanese mochi with sweet bean paste inside.

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