Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was elected as the new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Monday at a joint plenary meeting of party members from both houses of the Diet and delegates from local chapters.
At the joint plenary meeting, Suga won 377 votes while the other two contenders, Fumio Kishida and Shigeru Ishiba gained 89 and 68 votes, respectively.
Suga is virtually assured of becoming the next prime minister due to the LDP’s dominance in both chambers of Japan’s bicameral parliament.
The election was triggered by Shinzo Abe’s abrupt announcement late last month that he was stepping down due to a recurrent health issue that also brought his first tenure as prime minister to an abrupt end in 2007.
Suga, who has been one of Abe’s closest confidants for almost eight years, said after the election that he would continue Abe’s policy amid the COVID-19 outbreak and promote deregulation in Japan.
Suga’s term as the LDP president is limited to the remainder of Abe’s current three-year term through September 2021.
However, speculation is swirling recently that he may call a general election as early as next month to improve his chances of winning a full three-year term as LDP leader.
Suga has said that only when the COVID-19 pandemic in the country has been brought under control would he think about dissolving the lower house of parliament for a snap election.