REVIEW - Abe's Loyal Lieutenant And Farmers' Son: Japanese New Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 16th September, 2020) Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga has been confirmed by a special parliament session as the nation's new prime minister after winning by a landslide in a leadership election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Suga will succeed his boss and Japan's longest-serving prime minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down unexpectedly in late August over health issues.

The politician will serve as prime minister only for 12 months, which are left of Abe's last three-year term, until the regular leadership election scheduled to take place until the end of September 2021. This time only parliamentarians and representatives from regional chapters cast their ballots for a new party leader, but in 2021 all file-and-rank members and there are nearly one million of them will elect the president for the next three years.

In a fairytale-like success story, Suga, born to a family of strawberry farmers in northern Japan, has climbed to the highest ranks of the Japanese political elite.

Back in 1975, he started off as secretary to an LDP lawmaker. Eleven years later, he set about trying to become a politician himself and wore out six pairs of shoes campaigning door to door to be elected as a member of the Yokohama City Council. Now, 33 years later, he is elected for the top job in the country.

Abe's loyal lieutenant for years, Suga is widely seen as more of a continuity candidate to steer the ship for the remaining year of Abe's last term. In media appearances throughout the LDP leadership campaigning, the politician himself pledged to continue the domestic and foreign policies of his predecessor and reiterated this intention once again after being elected as the ruling party president.

"We need to inherit and facilitate policies promoted by Prime Minister Abe in order for us to overcome this crisis and for each and every individual to have a safe and stable life," Suga said after the vote, as quoted by The Japan Times.

As Japan battles the pandemic and its economic effects, Suga will likely prioritize domestic issues.

"He will be focused on domestic matters the coronavirus crisis, reinvigorating the economy and above all, he needs to significantly improve his popularity first before embarking on any new directions in diplomacy," Purnendra Jain, a professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide, told Sputnik in an interview soon after Suga emerged as likely candidate to take over prime ministership.

Suga, who spent most of his tenure as chief cabinet secretary working on domestic and bureaucratic issues, may encounter certain challenges in foreign affairs and diplomacy. Despite his trip to Washington DC in late 2019, the politician may lack experience and charisma to bond with foreign leaders, in particular Trump, like Abe did, analysts say.

"There are various reasons for that. One, I think, is just personality. I think Abe and Trump share not in any way a similar personality, but a similar kind of charismatic leadership role within their own countries. They are decisive people, people turn to love or hate them. Suga is a much more understated figure, I think, in a sense that somebody like Trump will eat him for breakfast a bit because he is unimpressive, he lacks any kind of real charisma, he lacks a clear sense of what foreign policy goals are," Ra Mason, a lecturer in international relations and Japanese foreign policy at the East Anglia University, Sputnik back in early September.

The researcher asserted that Suga could also face difficulties in building relationships with other regional leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping, too.

"I think he will also struggle there because, again, people like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are simply too experienced and too powerful as leaders within their own states and within the international arena that, I think, Suga is way out of his depth, particularly in that company," Mason said.