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Yoshihide Suga appointed Japanese Prime Minister, succeeding Shinzo Abe – ABC News

Yoshihide Suga has been formally elected Japan’s new Prime Minister, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe who has resigned because of poor health

Mr Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday (local time), virtually assuring his succession.

Previously the chief cabinet secretary and long seen as Mr Abe’s right-hand man, he will launch his own Cabinet later today.

Mr Suga has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician while promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

He has said he will pursue Mr Abe’s unfinished policies and his top priorities will be fighting coronavirus and turning around Japan’s economy, which has battered by the pandemic.

Mr Abe, 65, has ulcerative colitis and his current treatment requires IV injections.

Last month he said his condition had improved but, facing ongoing treatment and physical weakness, he decided to resign.

Before the change was official, Mr Abe said as a Member of Parliament, he would support Mr Suga’s Government.

Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wave to staff members as they applaud to bid him goodbye at his official residence.Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wave to staff members as they applaud to bid him goodbye at his official residence.
Shinzo Abe waves to staff as they applaud the outgoing leader.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

“I devoted my body and soul to the [nation’s] economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Mr Abe said before heading into his final Cabinet meeting.

Mr Suga gained the support of party heavyweights and their followers early in the campaign due to expectations he would continue Mr Abe’s policies.

Mr Suga has praised Mr Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies.

Mr Suga, who does not belong to any ideological wing within the party and opposes factionalism, said he was a reformer who would break down vested interests and rules that hampered reforms.

In a reshuffle of the ruling party key posts, however, Mr Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions, a balancing act seen as a return of favour for their support in the leadership race.

The new Prime Minister will inherit a range of challenges, including managing Japan’s difficult relationship with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea.

He will also have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus.

In addition, he will have to establish a good relationship with whoever wins the US presidential race.

Reuters/AP

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