The sudden rise of Japan’s new prime minister

The unexpected rise of Japan's new prime minister


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Getty Images

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Yoshihide Suga celebrates after being elected as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party

Shinzo Abe was Japan’s prime minister for thus lengthy that folks world wide got here to recognise his face and maybe even knew the right way to pronounce his identify. So, ought to all of us now be studying the right way to say Yoshihide Suga? That is a tough query to reply.

A month in the past, there have been only a few who would have predicted what we at the moment are witnessing. Firstly nobody anticipated Mr Abe to go, definitely not earlier than his beloved Tokyo Olympics. Even fewer would have guessed Mr Suga as his alternative.

The 71-year-old is thought in Japan as Mr Abe’s fixer, the backroom man who will get stuff completed.

When requested just lately whether or not he considered himself as a pleasant man, Mr Suga responded: “I am very nice to those who do their job properly”.

His public face is that of the unsmiling and seemingly charmless authorities spokesman. His nickname amongst Japanese journalists is the “Iron Wall”, a reference to his refusal to answer questions he would not like.

So how is it that Mr Suga is now immediately Japan’s new prime minister?

According to economist and long-time Tokyo resident Jesper Koll, Mr Suga was chosen by Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) bosses, the faction leaders who wield energy behind the scenes, as a result of they noticed no apparent various.

“This is obviously an election in smoky rooms right inside the LDP,” he says. “The public had no voice in this choice of the prime minister of Japan.

“In the tip, you are solely any good to your celebration in the event you can win victories in public elections. So, he’s underneath stress. He goes to must show himself to the celebration and to the Japanese those who he deserves to be prime minister,” says Mr Koll.

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Reuters

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Mr Suga was nicknamed “Uncle Reiwa” after unveiling Japan’s new period identify

Mr Suga is clearly not with out political abilities. He has served as Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary for longer than any of his predecessors. He has a status for toughness and self-discipline and for understanding the equipment of Japan’s byzantine forms. But are these the types of abilities that win elections?

Professor Koichi Nakano from Tokyo’s Sophia University thinks not.

“He rose to power because he has the political skills of intimidating opponents, including the press and dominating the scene through backdoor dealings and controlling the bureaucrats quite well,” he says.

“But when it comes to the public face of the party, when the lower house election needs to be called within a year, he’s really unsuited because he’s not very eloquent.”

That lack of eloquence was on show as Mr Suga made his victory speech on Monday. In ponderous tones with lengthy pregnant pauses he promised the next.

“I want to break down bureaucratic sectionalism, vested interests, and the blind adherence to precedent.”

But Mr Koll is somebody who is aware of Mr Suga personally and he says we should not be so fast to dismiss him.

“Here is a man who gets up at 5am in the morning, does 100 sit ups and then reads all the newspapers,” he says.

“By 6:30am, he’s starting meetings with business people, with advisers, with outside economists. He absorbed like a sponge and wants to get things done for the country. He’s not interested in any of the glitz or bling that comes with the government.”

The new premier’s eschewal of ‘glitz and bling’ is put right down to his humble origins.

Mr Suga was born in a small village within the snowy north of Japan, the son of a strawberry farmer. According to a 2016 biography, he could not wait to flee the agricultural backwater.

At 18 he left for Tokyo. There he labored in a cardboard manufacturing facility saving to pay his personal method by means of college. That units Mr Suga other than most of his predecessors, like Mr Abe, whose father was Japan’s international minister, and grandfather prime minister.

Mr Suga’s ‘origins’ story is an efficient one, however in response to Professor Koichi Nakano it makes him extraordinarily weak within the typically vicious factional struggles inside Japan’s ruling celebration.

“Because Mr Suga comes from a humble background, he really doesn’t have his own power base,” he says.

“He doesn’t belong to any faction. He rose to power because he was Mr Abe’s preferred choice. And the party bosses rally behind him in an emergency situation. But once the emergency situation is gone and once the party bosses start to realise that they are not getting all they wanted, I’m sure there is going to be a power struggle.”

There are many nicely related “young pretenders” ready within the wings, ready for Mr Suga to make a mistake. And there are various issues that would go improper. Before he introduced his departure, Prime Minister Abe’s approval score had fallen to 30%, largely over discontent on the method he is dealt with the Covid-19 disaster.

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Reuters

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Yoshihide Suga was born the son of strawberry farmers

Mr Abe’s biggest achievement was to provide Japan an extended interval of political stability. Before his election in 2012, Japan had seen 19 Prime Ministers within the earlier 30 years. It was referred to as “the revolving door”, and a few fear Japan is now poised to return to return to factional infighting and short-lived governments.

“It does seem to be the case that after a long serving prime minister, we get short lived ones,” says Kristi Govella, a Japan watcher on the University of Hawaii.

“I think it’s likely we will now enter a period of more short-lived prime ministers. It’s not clear if they’ll be every 10 months or rather every two years. It would certainly be beneficial for Japan if it were not a different person every year.”

For Prime Minister Suga, these usually are not reassuring phrases. He has loads to show, and doubtless not very lengthy to take action.

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