As promised, Japan’s soon-to-be PM Suga keeps key ministers and LDP execs in posts

Yoshihide Suga gestures at a news conference after winning the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election on Monday. | BLOOMBERG. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Sep 15, 2020, Reuters. Kyodo, Jiji. Yoshihide Suga, the new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and soon-to-be prime minister, appeared set on Tuesday to continue his predecessor’s policies by keeping key Cabinet ministers and party officials in their posts, as he had promised, The Japan Times reported.

Suga, long a loyal aide and chief Cabinet secretary under outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Monday won a landslide victory to take over the LDP. He pledged to carry on many of Abe’s programs, including his signature Abenomics economic strategy.

He faces a vast array of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society in which nearly a third of the population is older than 65.

Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are likely to stay in their positions, according to multiple media reports, as is LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai. Yasutoshi Nishimura is likely to be reappointed as economy minister.

Suga may name Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, who has become well known to the public as the face of Japan’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus, as chief Cabinet secretary, sources said. Kato is close to Suga, under whom he served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Land minister Kazuyoshi Akaba, who belongs to the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, and Olympics and Paralympics minister Seiko Hashimoto will also be retained in the new Cabinet, the sources said.

Suga, who has served as chief Cabinet secretary under Abe for seven years and eight months, said on Monday he plans to appoint someone who is “well-rounded” as his successor to a post that serves as both a policy coordinator and the government’s top spokesman.

“Many different elements are needed,” Suga said on Monday, when asked about who should replace him. “One is their fit with the prime minister, but thinking about it overall, they also need to have broad strengths, that will be the most calming.”

Suga is virtually certain to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday because of the LDP’s Lower House majority. He will serve out Abe’s term as party leader through September 2021.

Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda, 60, who is a nonaligned LDP member, will also be named executive deputy secretary-general of the party to assist Nikai. She replaces former defense chief Tomomi Inada, the sole female LDP executive.Suga was also slated to reshuffle the LDP’s leadership on Tuesday. In addition to retaining Nikai, he will also name former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as policy chief. Tsutomu Sato, a former minister of internal affairs and communications, is set to be appointed as chairman of the General Council while Hiroshi Moriyama will remain head of the Diet Affairs Committee, party sources said.

After the shake-up, Suga was scheduled to meet with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi to affirm the continuation of the governing coalition.

Nikai, who has served in the party’s No. 2 post since 2016, is known as a power broker and played a key role in Suga’s victory over current LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

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