Japan's top govt spokesman Suga to join race to succeed PM Abe

TOKYO (REUTERS) -Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will join the race to succeed his boss Shinzo Abe as prime minister, Kyodo news agency reported on Sunday (Aug 30), as the competition heats up to succeed Japan’s longest-serving leader.

Mr Suga, a long-time lieutenant of Mr Abe’s in a key supporting role, has denied interest in the top job but attracted attention with a series of interviews to Reuters and other news organisations in the days before Mr Abe’s abrupt resignation for health reasons.

A Suga government would extend the fiscal and monetary stimulus that defined Mr Abe’s nearly eight years in office.

Mr Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, said on Friday he was stepping down due to a worsening of a chronic illness, setting the stage for a leadership election within his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The LDP president is virtually assured of being prime minister because of the party’s majority in the Lower House of Parliament.

Mr Suga decided to join the LDP race, judging that he should play a leading role given expectations of his ability to manage crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Japan’s deepest postwar economic dive, Kyodo said, citing an unnamed source.

Calls to Mr Suga’s parliamentary office seeking comment on Sunday went unanswered.

A self-made politician in a country of political dynasties, he was chosen by Mr Abe in 2012 for the pivotal role of chief cabinet secretary, acting as top government spokesman, coordinating policies and riding herd on bureaucrats.

Mr Suga would join such candidates as former foreign minister Fumio Kishida and former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba.

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