The candidates to succeed Shinzo Abe, from left to right: Fumio Kishida, Yoshihide Suga, and Shigeru Ishiba.

The Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) of Japan confirmed on Wednesday September 2 that its vote to designate the successor to Shinzo Abe, prime minister who resigned for health reasons, will take place on September 14. After seven years and eight months at the head of the country, he had just broken a longevity record for a Japanese prime minister.

Yoshihide Suga, the current secretary general of the government and loyal lieutenant of Shinzo Abe, appears to be the big favorite in this internal election, which will be followed by a vote in Parliament, most likely on September 16. But this final step in electing the prime minister should only be a formality, the PLD controlling both chambers of Parliament with its ally, the Enlightened Government Party (Komeito). Yoshihide Suga, 71, was to officially announce his candidacy during the day at a press conference.

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Two other candidates have already declared themselves: Shigeru Ishiba, 63, former minister of defense and expert on military issues, and Fumio Kishida, former minister of foreign affairs. The latter has long been considered Mr. Abe’s favorite to succeed him, but he suffers from a lack of notoriety and charisma.

The support of the big factions, which Mr. Suga enjoys, is decisive in this election, because the PLD has decided to opt for a reduced and accelerated format, where only its parliamentarians and regional delegates will be able to vote, and not all party members.

Huge challenges

Shinzo Abe, 65, cited his health problems as the reason for his decision to resign on Friday August 28. His ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease he has suffered from since adolescence, has worsened, he told a press conference, requiring lasting treatment. Mr. Abe intends to remain in his post until the appointment of his successor, and has not given instructions to vote.

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Observers and the business community, along with Yoshihide Suga, expect great continuity in the key policies of the Abe government, to which he has actively contributed for nearly eight years. Mr Suga was instrumental in bringing Mr Abe back to power after his first term as prime minister failed.

The challenges for the future Japanese prime minister are immense: from managing the pandemic to an economy in recession, through complicated diplomatic relations with China and South Korea and the still pending Tokyo Olympics.

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Mr. Ishiba and Mr. Kishida have drawn up a mixed assessment in recent days of Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, characterized in particular by an ultra-accommodating monetary policy and massive fiscal stimulus. According to them, this policy has paid off for large companies and financial markets, but has neglected low-income households and rural areas.

The World with AFP

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