TOKYO — Japan’s Parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister Wednesday, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man.
Suga bowed deeply several times when the results were announced, as fellow governing party lawmakers applauded in parliament’s more powerful lower house. He was also confirmed in the upper house.
Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary and the top government spokesman under Abe, selected a Cabinet with a mix of fresh faces and current or former ministers, a lineup that suggests a continuation of Abe’s influence while reflecting Suga’s pledge of administrative reforms.
Suga has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities. He has said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies and that his priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.
“Response to the coronavirus is the immediate priority,” Suga, wearing a formal suit, said at his first news conference as prime minister Wednesday night. “I will carry on former Prime Minister Abe’s policies and push them forward in order to overcome this national crisis and restore safety for the people.”
Suga was a loyal supporter since Abe’s first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and helped him return to the job in 2012.
Abe, 65, announced last month he was resigning because of a chronic illness. He said Wednesday that as a lawmaker, he will support Suga’s government.
Suga, 71, praised Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies when asked what he would like to accomplish himself. He pledged to speed up Japan’s lagging digital transformation and appointed a special minister, Takuya Hrai.
Suga also said he will push reforms by breaking down bureaucratic barriers and vested interests. But in reshuffling key posts within the party, Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions, a balancing act seen as returning favors for support in the leadership race.