Yoshihide Suga, a self-made politician and the right-hand man to his predecessor, was officially elected by Parliament on Wednesday as Japan's new prime minister and leader of the world's third largest economy. The 71-year-old head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party replaces Shinzo Abe, who resigned due to ill health, reports the AP. As the chief Cabinet spokesman under Abe, the straight-faced Suga offered bland commentary at twice-daily news briefings. But behind the scenes, Suga is known for his stubbornness, an iron-fist approach as a policy coordinator and influencing bureaucrats by using the power of the prime minister’s office, leading political watchers to call him the "shadow prime minister." Some bureaucrats who opposed his policies have said they were removed from government projects or transferred to other posts. Suga himself recently said he would continue to do so.
His parents' eldest son, Suga defied tradition by leaving for Tokyo rather than taking over the family strawberry farm in Akita prefecture. He worked at a cardboard factory before entering university, paying his tuition while working part-time jobs. He was a secretary to former trade minister Hikosaburo Okonogi for 11 years before becoming a Yokohama city assemblyman in 1987. Suga was elected to the lower house in 1996 at age 47, a late start compared to political heirs like Abe, the third-generation political blue-blood elected to parliament at age 29. Suga was a loyal Abe supporter and his cabinet will include many former Abe appointees, reports CNN. Suga has said his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around a Japanese economy battered by it, with an emphasis on foreign tourism. He will also have to decide what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, postponed to next summer.
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