Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga began work as the nation’s leader Thursday vowing to “meet people’s expectations.” Speaking to reporters at the prime minister’s office, Suga said his Cabinet would be results-oriented. “I want to meet people’s expectations by creating a Cabinet that works for people and achieves results,” Suga said. Newly appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, meanwhile, reiterated the former administration’s commitment to fighting the coronavirus pandemic and preventing an explosive rise in infections. “The important thing is to prevent infections and bring economic and social activities back to normal and revive them,” Japan’s new top government spokesman said. Kato added that under Suga’s stewardship, the government will continue to tackle the nation’s demographic crisis and forge deeper ties with Japan’s closest neighbors.
Suga, the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was chosen as Japan’s new prime minister to succeed Shinzo Abe in an extraordinary parliamentary session on Wednesday. The parliament formally chose Suga as the nation’s 99th prime minister in an extraordinary session convened at which he was elected by both chambers of Japan’s bicameral parliament, winning 314 votes in the more powerful 465-member lower house and 142 votes in the 245-member upper chamber.
Late last month and just days after becoming the nation’s longest-serving leader in terms of consecutive days in office, Abe abruptly announced that he planned to step down because of the same intestinal disease and ulcerative colitis that forced him to relinquish his role as prime minister during his first stint as a leader beginning 2006. Suga has formed a Cabinet comprising of a number of ministers who served under Abe in a bid to maintain continuity. He has retained the services of LDP veteran heavyweights including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi.
Fifteen of Suga’s picks for his 20-member Cabinet held ministerial portfolios in the previous administration. Suga, who at 71 is the oldest prime minister to take office since Kiichi Miyazawa in 1991, will serve as LDP president for the remainder of Abe’s current three-year term through September 2021. There has been speculation, however, that he may call a general election as early as next month, although he has stated that for the time being tackling the coronavirus pandemic is his priority.