Elected, Monday September 14, at the head of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Yoshihide Suga is guaranteed to become, on September 16, the new prime minister of the third largest economic power in the world following a vote in Parliament, where his formation and his centrist ally Komeito hold the majority.
Chief of staff to the Prime Minister and spokesman for the outgoing government, the lackluster Mr. Suga will succeed Shinzo Abe, who announced his resignation at the end of August for health reasons.
The designation of Mr. Suga as successor is not surprising: it was acquired since the “barons” of the PLD had agreed on his name. This succession, quickly orchestrated in order to avoid any impression of a vacancy in power, is nonetheless loaded with uncertainties.
Mr. Suga plays continuity
Like the rest of the world, Japan is facing the health crisis – and the economic collapse it is causing -, but also a resurgence of tension with China, which is increasing its incursions into its territorial waters, and uncertainties of the presidential election in the United States.
While the other two candidates for the presidency of the PLD (the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida, and the former Minister of Defense, Shigeru Ishiba) put forward directions which, without being new, had the merit of existing , Mr. Suga plays on the continuity and experience of power, arguing “Have always been associated with the decisions of Mr. Abe”.
Reassuring no doubt for public opinion, continuity, key word of Mr. Suga, is perhaps not what Japan needs in these uncertain times which have revealed the erosion of power of Shinzo Abe. Renowned economically liberal, Mr. Suga is in no way different from his predecessor: same diplomatic orientation, same accommodating monetary policy, same disinterest in environmental issues.
The seven years and eight months of Mr. Abe at the head of Japan – a record longevity – are a trompe-l’oeil success: “His greatest success is undoubtedly to have remained in power for so long”, considers, ironic, Tobias Harris, author of The Iconoclast. Shinzo Abe and the New Japan (Hurst & Co, 392 pages, 23 euros, not translated). Many promises have not been kept, such as structural reforms of the economy or improving the situation of women.
Credibility on the international scene
Mr. Abe, on the other hand, gave visibility to Japan on the international scene by increasing the number of visits abroad. It is largely on this image of a globalized Japan, of which the Olympic Games in Tokyo of 2020 were to be the culmination, that he maintained his popularity. It had begun to erode itself with its mistakes in the management of the health crisis – to which Mr. Suga is no stranger.
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