Yoshide Suga set to become Japan’s next Prime Minister

Tokyo – There are some true surprises in Japanese politics, but the rise of Yoshihida Suga to become the next Prime Minister was not really predetermined.

The son of a strawberry farmer and a school student from rural northern Japan, Mr. Suga is one of the few prominent Japanese lawmakers not from an elite political family. Charisma is not even the second or third word developed by the first or their public persona. At the age of 71, he is older than Shinzo Abe, who suddenly announced in late August that he was resigning from the post of Prime Minister due to ill-health.

The offer is a continuation of Mr. Abe, who has long been Mr. Abe’s principal cabinet secretary. He vowed to accept that Mr. Abe has made a gesture, a gesture that reassures the nation after the wandering prime ministers. And in Japan, where stability often transcends ideology, Mr. Suga appealed to a tradition-bound political establishment that opposes change.

On Monday, Mr. Suga contested for leadership of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party – which has governed Japan for all four years since World War II – assuring him prime minister.

With his decisive victory in a party contest that initially seemed wide open, Mr. Suga served as the rear operator, essentially serving as Mr. Abe’s chief and chief government spokesman for nearly eight years. Demonstrated political prowess in.

Miria Solis, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings Institution in Washington, said “how quickly there was talk of Suga”.

But his role as a shadow power in Japanese politics has made him a cipher.

In many ways, he seems as if Dorr is another in a long queue of Japanese politicians. The most exciting nugget to emerge in recent news reports is the revelation that Mr. Suga, a tettoler with a sweet tooth, begins and ends with 100 situps each day. On their website they say that they like fishing in the river and karate.

More importantly, it has been difficult for Japan to understand Mr. Suga’s vision, or he may be ready for new solutions to the country’s deepest challenges.

“In general, politicians have at least one aspect of expressing ideals,” said Megumi Naoyi, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, who is generally concerned about ‘types of the world’ Expect policy statements. Want to see. “

Despite nearly a quarter of a century in national politics, Mr. Suga “has not really come out with very strong policies,” Ms. Navey said.

Reflecting his years as a loyal adviser to Mr Abe, Mr Suga, who declined a request for an interview, has promised to pursue some of the late Prime Minister’s most cherished goals. They are expected to proceed to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution and the return of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea.

He has also said that he will stick to Mr Abe’s signed economic formula, known as Abenomics, which is a combination of easy monetary policy, government spending and structural reform of industries such as agriculture.

When Mr. Suga showed little sign last week of staging a new policy – a possible increase in tax that hampered consumer spending – he quickly backtracked.

With the global unrest in Asia from the coronavirus epidemic and growing geopolitical threats, a successor who stays the course may be exactly what Japan needs.

“Christina L. Davis, director of programs on US-Japan Relations at Harvard, said,” Japan is not a country with revolutionary reforms very often. “Being seen as a stable crisis manager can be an asset, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty.”

Even when he becomes a symbol of status quo, Mr. Suga has been a catalyst for significant change. He is credited with helping Mr. Abe through controversial security laws that allow Japan’s military to engage in foreign warfare operations with allies. Mr. Suga was also considered a strong proponent of a bill passed two years ago that authorizes a sharp increase in the number of foreign workers allowed in Japan.

There are concerns among other glimpses of his political hand. Some critics say that Mr. Suga was the architect behind some of Mr. Abe’s more authoritarian impulses, including consolidation of power over Japan’s broader bureaucracy and the use of tactics to silence criticism in the news media.

“I think Mr. Suga is more dangerous than Mr. Abe,” Kihi Makawa, a former deputy education minister, told Sunday Manichi, a weekly magazine.

With Mr. Suga as prime minister, Mr. Makawa predicted, “bureaucrats will be servants or act as a private army” under the Prime Minister’s Office, “even worse in the Abe era.”

A big question is how long will Mr. Suga last. Whether it eliminates a caretaker leader or lasts after a general election, immediate challenges like the epidemic, the postponed Tokyo Olympics and growing tensions with China are likely to depend on his response.

There are rumors that Mr. Suga may call a snap election soon after assuming the post of Prime Minister. If successful, it can strengthen its popularity. If not, “maybe it’s just an interim leader,” said Ken Hizino, a law professor at Kyoto University, “and they’ll come up with some amazingly young, more attractive faces to go to the general election.”

For now, the public supports Mr. Suga, in a national poll last week, more than 50 percent of the people supported him to become Prime Minister.

While Japanese voters see Mr. Suga and Mr. Abe as a pair, their family background can hardly be different. Mr. Abe is a third-generation politician and grandson of the Prime Minister; Mr. Suga had a unique upbringing in rural Akita Province, with two older sisters and a younger brother.

“He was so calm that nobody paid attention to him,” said Hiroshi Kawai, a high school classmate who now works as a tour guide in Mr. Suga’s hometown, Yuzawa City.

“We have proverbs like tal great talents are slow to mature ‘and fal an intelligent hawk hides his genius,” Mr. Kavai said in a telephone interview. “Now, I realized that those words were coined for Mr. Suga.”

According to Isao Mori’s biography, Mr. Suga’s father suggested that he work on the family farm, but Mr. Suga decided to move to Tokyo. He took odd jobs, first with a cardboard company and then driving a turret truck in the old Tsukiji fish market before enrolling at Hoze University.

When she decided to pursue politics, having no family ties, she asked a Member of Parliament to introduce her to the Career Services Center.

In 1975, Mr. Suga took a job as secretary of Hikosoburo Okonoji, a member of the House of Representatives from Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city. Mr. Suga’s duties included purchasing cigarettes and parking cars.

He also quickly learned how to complete a constituency. At Mr. Suga’s wedding in 1980, according to Mr. Suga’s biography, according to a biography of Mr. Suga, a supporter of Mr. Okonogi said that he had bought shoes for Mr. Suga, because he “wore them quickly” in the district. Voters.

Suga had three sons, but in an argument last week, Mr. Suga admitted that he was rarely in the house as they were growing up.

In 1987, he ran for a city council seat in Yokohama, where he became known as “Chhaya” Yokohama Mayor. He helped develop transport links in the port and reduced waiting lists at daycare centers in the city.

“He has four eyes and four ears,” said Koichi Fujishiro, former president of Yokohama City Council. “They worked from morning till late at night.”

In 1996, Mr. Suga made a leap into national politics by winning a seat in the lower house of Parliament. From 2006 to 2007, while Mr. Abe’s first stint as Prime Minister, Mr. Suga served as Minister of Internal Affairs and Telecommunications. Even after a series of scams Mr. Abe left the post, Mr. Suga remained loyal.

Mr Abe rewarded that loyalty when he returned as Prime Minister in 2012 and chose Mr Suga as his Chief Cabinet Secretary. According to Kenya Matsuda, author of “Shadow Power: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga”, Mr. Suga urged Mr. Abe to focus on the economy rather than the nationalist agenda that consumed his first term.

Last year, Mr. Suga took a few steps to come out of the shadows. When the government officially unveiled the name of the new era, marking the accession of Emperor Naruhito, it was Mr. Suga who dramatically introduced a calligraphy of the name, Reva, giving him a volume called “Uncle Reva” did.

Mr. Suga has also trumpeted his brainchild, a system that allows citizens to donate money to local governments in exchange for sour gifts at the local level. Governments in many small towns, however, have lost money by spending more on gifts such as wagyu beef or shipments of fresh shrimp, compared to donations raised.

On foreign policy, Mr. Suga has served to fill a hole in his portfolio. He visited Washington last year, the first Chief Cabinet Secretary to make such a visit in three decades.

For Mr. Abe, personal diplomacy with President Trump has been important. If Mr. Trump won re-election, Ms. Solis of the Brucings Institution said, “Could Suga magic work, or was it not for Trump to repeat once again between Trump and Abe.”

Hikari Hida and Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.