Yoshihide Suga elected as Japan’s new prime minister

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ANKARA

Japan’s parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as the country’s new prime minister on Wednesday.

Suga, a close confidante of outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Monday was elected to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

He won the votes of 314 members of the parliament out of the 465 total. 

Suga, 71, will be the oldest prime minister to take office since Kiichi Miyazawa in 1991, and his term in office will continue until general elections in September 2021.

Unlike his predecessors, Suga does not belong to a political family. His father was a strawberry farmer and his mother a school teacher.

Suga was born on Dec. 6, 1948 in a snow-covered village in the northern Akita prefecture.

Abe, in contrast, is a scion of a political dynasty. 

Soon after the election was held to tap Suga as the next prime minister, Abe, along with his cabinet, announced their resignation. 

“I have spent every day putting my all into economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s interests,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News agency reported. 

Abe’s sudden announcement of his resignation late last month triggered a leadership contest in the party as the outgoing prime minister undergoes serious health complications. 

“It is my honor to have been able to work on a range of issues along with the people during this time. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart,” said Abe, who earlier said he would continue his political career during his treatment.

Suga will be formally inaugurated at an imperial ceremony by Japan’s emperor, followed by a press conference. Several new faces are expected to join Suga’s cabinet.

His election to the government’s helm comes at a time when Japan is battling short-term economic damage due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

However, he has vowed to continue Abe’s economic policies.

Japan’s government under Abe had already announced a $2.2 trillion package to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, including subsidies for virus-hit businesses and domestic tourism.

Suga was previously the government’s cabinet secretary and chief spokesman defending its policies.

The ruling party enjoys a majority in the lower house — the House of Representatives — of the Japanese parliament, locally known as the Diet.

The party also holds a majority in the Diet’s upper house — the House of Councilors — along with its coalition partner, Komeito.

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