News ID: 274287
Published: 0256 GMT September 16, 2020

Japan's Suga voted PM, crafts 'continuity cabinet'

Japan's Suga voted PM, crafts 'continuity cabinet'
REUTERS

Japan's Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament on Wednesday to become the country's first new leader in nearly eight years, appointing a new cabinet that kept about half of the familiar faces from predecessor Abe Shinzo's lineup.

Suga, 71, Abe's longtime right-hand man, has pledged to pursue many of Abe's programs, including his economic strategy, known as "Abenomics", and to forge ahead with structural reforms, including deregulation and shutting down bureaucratic turf battles, Reuters reported.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving premier, resigned because of ill health after nearly eight years in office. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary, acting as top government spokesman and coordinating policies.

Suga, who won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race by a landslide on Monday, faces a plethora of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.

About half of the new cabinet are carryovers from Abe's administration. Only two are women and the average age, including Suga, is 60.

Among those retaining their jobs are key players such as Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, along with Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the youngest at 39.

Abe's younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, was handed the defense portfolio, while outgoing Defense Minister Taro Kono takes charge of administrative reform, a post he has held before.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Abe's point man on COVID-19 response, remains economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, also retains his post.

Katsunobu Kato, the outgoing health minister and a close Suga ally, takes on the challenging post of chief cabinet secretary. He announced the cabinet lineup.

In a move that resonates with voters, Suga has criticized Japan's top three mobile phone carriers, NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp., saying they should return more money to the public and face more competition.

He has said Japan may eventually need to raise its 10% sales tax to pay for social security, but not for the next decade.

Speculation has simmered that Suga might call a snap election for parliament's lower house to take advantage of any rise in public support, although he has said handling the pandemic and reviving the economy were his top priorities.

 

 

   
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