Former Factory Worker Becomes Japan’s New Prime Minister

Yoshihide Suga

Yoshihide Suga, a former cardboard factory worker and strawberry farmer’s son, has been elected as Japan’s new prime minister on Wednesday following the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Taking over: Suga, who previously worked under Abe’s rule as chief Cabinet secretary, was elected Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader on Monday with nearly 70% of the votes. But he still needed support from Japan’s national legislature, the Diet, according to CNN.

  • The 71-year-old politician won 314 votes out of 462 cast by parliament’s lower house members and 142 out of 240 votes in the upper chamber to become the country’s official prime minister.
  • Abe’s health minister Katsunobu Katu will take Suga’s previous position while Finance Minister Aso Taro and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi return to their respective positions.
  • Abe’s brother, Nobuo Kishi, will take the role of Defense Minister. There are reportedly only two women in the cabinet.
  • Suga won the position as head of the LPD earlier this week against former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, CNN reported.
  • As the oldest prime minister to take office, Suga will carry on Abe’s economic policy and take charge of a $2.2 trillion effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UPI.

Who is Yoshihide Suga: The 71-year-old politician worked as Abe’s right-hand man as the cabinet secretary, which is a combination of the chief of staff and press secretary, and a behind-the-scenes deal maker.

  • A son of a farmer, Suga grew up in the rural Akita prefecture and moved to Tokyo after high school.
  • He worked as a cardboard factory worker and an employee at the Tsukiji fish market, to save up money for university, which he attended part-time while continuing to work several jobs.
  • After graduation, Suga worked as a salaryman, or white-collar worker, before he ventured into politics and ran for city council in Yokohama.
  • Since he did not have any political connections, Suga worked hard for his campaign, visiting 300 houses a day with a total of 30,000 houses.
  • By the time the election rolled out, he reportedly wore out six pairs of shoes.

Resignation announcement: Abe, 65, announced his plan to resign from his position in August, citing health issues as the reason.

  • Abe has been suffering for years from an inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis, but he said his condition had worsened recently, BBC reported.
  • “I made a judgment I should not continue my job as a prime minister,” Abe said. “I would like to sincerely apologize to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented.”
  • Abe became the longest-serving Japanese prime minister last year after taking office in 2012.

Feature Image via © 内閣官房内閣広報室 (CC BY 4.0)

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