Yoshihide Suga will officially become Japan’s next prime minister Wednesday.
The country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party will formally vote to install Suga as the country’s leader during a parliamentary session. Wednesday’s vote comes a day after the LDP overwhelmingly chose Suga as the party’s president.
Under Japan’s parliamentary system, the ruling party elects the person who will become prime minister, usually the party leader.
The 71-year-old Suga will succeed Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who abruptly resigned last month after eight years in office, citing the recurrence of ulcerative colitis, which has plagued him for much of his life. Suga served in Abe’s government as chief cabinet secretary, and has been a key ally of Abe since the latter’s first tenure as prime minister, which was cut short in 2007 after just one year due to his chronic illness.
Suga inherits a country whose economy is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the postponement of the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021.
In a video message posted on his social media account, Abe thanked the people of Japan and vowed to support Suga’s tenure as a member of parliament.
Suga says he will carry on his predecessor’s policies, including his signature “Abenomics” economic program, as well as his diplomatic initiatives, including maintaining strong ties with the United States. He is expected to retain most of Abe’s cabinet, including Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
The incoming prime minister is also expected to give Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, the defense portfolio, while current defense minister Taro Kono will be shifted to administrative reforms minister.