Meet Yoshihide Suga, elected Japan’s next PM who begins and ends his day with 100 sit-ups

Yoshihide Suga, won 377 votes out of 534 votes cast, and 535 possible votes, in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election by the party’s members of parliament and representatives of its 47 local chapters.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga acknowledges as he is elected as new head of Japan's ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leadership election in Tokyo on Monday.(AP)
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga acknowledges as he is elected as new head of Japan's ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leadership election in Tokyo on Monday.(AP)
Updated on Sep 14, 2020 04:39 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | | Edited by Meenakshi Ray

Yoshihide Suga won the leadership race of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Monday and in all likelihood is set to win a parliamentary vote later this week and replace outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, said last month he would quit because of ill health, ending a nearly eight-year term.

The 71-year-old Suga, known as Abe’s trusted aide, won 377 votes out of 534 votes cast, and 535 possible votes, in the LDP election by the party’s members of parliament and representatives of its 47 local chapters.

Suga has a reputation for inscrutability, who has become a key government adviser, spokesman and policy enforcer. Suga has so far served in several key political roles, including most recently as chief cabinet secretary.

He has also effectively been the face of Abe’s government, serving as its top spokesman and defending decisions in daily press conferences.

Started from zero

Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer grew up in rural Akita in northern Japan. He came to Tokyo after high school and worked odd jobs to put himself through night college, before being elected to his first office in 1987, as a municipal assembly member in Yokohama outside Tokyo.

Suga won a lower house seat in 1996 and was a long-time backer of Abe, pushing him to stand for a second term despite his disastrous first run in office, which ended after just a year.

When Abe defied the odds and returned to power in 2012, he appointed Suga to the powerful chief cabinet secretary role, from which he is said to have helped push through several landmark Abe policies, including a loosening of restrictions on foreign workers.

He has held the key post of chief cabinet secretary since 2012, acting as Abe’s top government spokesperson, coordinating policies and keeping bureaucrats in line. He made reference to his background in accepting the party’s nomination as the leader, saying he “started from zero”.

“I, with this background, was able to become the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party with all its history and tradition. I will devote the whole of myself to Japan and the Japanese people,” he said.

Suga notably advised him against a controversial 2013 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which is viewed by neighbouring countries as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Eyes ahead

Suga has said he would continue Abe’s signature “Abenomics” strategy of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms while juggling the problems of Covid-19 and a slumping economy. He has also said he will confront longer-term issues such as Japan’s ageing population and low birth rate.

Suga, whose resume is thin on diplomatic experience, faces geopolitical challenges such as building ties with the winner of the November 3 US presidential election and balancing concern over China’s maritime aggressiveness with bilateral economic interdependence.

Neutral figure

According to experts, Suga is pragmatic rather than ideological and he is seen by lawmakers along the political spectrum within the LDP as a neutral figure. But his rather anodyne image got something of a reboot last year with the declaration of a new imperial era to mark the ascension to the throne of Emperor Naruhito.

It was Suga who unveiled the much-awaited name for the era: Reiwa. And the image of him holding up the hand-drawn calligraphy for the name earned him the affectionate nickname “Uncle Reiwa”.

He has allowed only occasional glimpses into his personal life with his family far from the spotlight but revealed in interviews that he bookends his day with 100 sit-ups in the morning and 100 in the evening, and has a weakness for pancakes.

Speculation is simmering that Suga will call a snap election for parliament’s lower house as soon as next month to boost his chances of winning a full three-year term as LDP chief next year. A vote for the lower chamber must be held by late October 2021.

A Reuters poll showed that Japanese manufacturers remained pessimistic for a 14th straight month in September, underlining the huge challenge the next leader faces.

(With agency inputs)

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference in Geneva.

    WHO chief as Covid cases rise in 4 regions: ‘increasingly difficult to know…’

    A decline in genome sequencing and testing for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has made it “increasingly difficult” to know where the virus is and how it is mutating, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhenom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday as cases have risen over the last week in four out of six WHO regions. He also expressed concern over the first reported Covid outbreak in North Korea, with more than 1.7 million suspected cases since late April.

  • The seven-day average percentage of positive Covid-19 test results rose to 5.18 per cent in New York City on Monday.

    New York City lifts Covid-19 alert level to 'high'

    New York City, the largest city in the United States, raised its Covid-19 alert level from "medium" to "high" on Tuesday, as infections continue to go up in recent weeks. The guidance requires New Yorkers to wear a face mask in all public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings and consider avoiding higher-risk activities. New York City raised its Covid-19 alert level to "medium" from "low" in early May.

  • As the video drew flak, TikToker Humaira Asghar said she did not start the wildfire and there is nothing wrong is shooting a video. 

    'Disturbing, disastrous': TikTokers in Pakistan starting wildfires for videos

    A video of Pakistani actor and TikToker Humaira Asghar has drawn flak on social media as Asghar was shot walking in a silver ball gown in front of a forest fire raging behind her. This in Pakistan has in fact become a trend as earlier this month a man was arrested in Abbottabad for intentionally starting a forest fire for the background of a video.

  • File photo: Ukrainian service members operate a 2A65 Msta-B howitzer during artillery and anti-aircraft drills near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in the Kherson region. 

    Ukraine war entering 'protracted phase': Defence minister tells NATO, EU

    Ukraine's defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that the ongoing war in his country is entering a protracted phase. In his speech to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and European Union defence ministers, Reznikov said on Tuesday, "Russia is preparing for a long-term military operation." Reznikov added that Russian forces are currently building fortifications in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to move to defence if necessary.

  • The viral video of a Twitter employee admitting how his colleagues hate Elon Musk has come to Musk's notice. 

    Elon Musk reacts to Twitter staff dissing him, saying 'We're commie as f***'

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk has commented on the leaked video of a Twitter employee openly admitting that Twitter has no freedom of speech and his colleagues are 'commies as f***' as the video has now gone viral on social media. 'Is this legit?' Elon Musk wrote on the video posted by journalist Benny Johnson. One Siru Murugesan, who identified himself as a senior engineer at Twitter said the atmosphere of Twitter is so Left that employees become Left making adjustments to their opinion.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 18, 2022