Shinzo Abe resigned today (September 16) as Japan’s prime minister and his cabinet followed suit to make way for a new leader, Yoshihide Suga.
Suga, the former chief cabinet secretary, was chosen as the leader of the governing Liberal Democratic Party on Monday, and easily won a poll for prime minister in the Diet, Japan’s lower house, getting 314 out of 462 votes.
Suga is expected to continue Abe’s policies, and has set as his priorities the fight against the coronavirus and to rebuild the economy.
Abe had announced his decision to step down due to health reasons last month.
“I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Abe said yesterday before his final Cabinet meeting.
Suga has emphasized his humble background as the son of strawberry farmers in the country, and has promised to look out for ordinary people and rural communities. He says that he is an admirer of Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies, and that as prime minister he will create a new government agency to propel Japan’s digital agenda.
There are many challenges for the new prime minster to deal with, including its relations with an increasingly powerful China, the 2020 Olympic Games which were postponed to next year and maintaining good relations with an increasingly divided United States.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, in a country were leaders tend not to stay in power for very long.
As prime minister he developed a good personal relationship with US President Donald Trump, and was the first foreign leader to meet with then president-elect Trump in 2016.
Abe had a taste of international fame back in 2016 at the finale of the Olympic Games in Rio, when he emerged from a green pipe dressed as Super Mario the plumber, to promote Tokyo as the next host.
Other moments of pride included taking part in the ancient ceremony to install a new emperor in 2019 and also to be the first Japanese prime minister to take an American president — Barak Obama in 2016 — to the site of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack.