Visuals of Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the newly elected party president, hitherto the Chief Cabinet Secretary,
Yosihide Suga, on Monday reaffirm the smooth transition scripted by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Mr Suga, who has been elected as the president of the party, is set to be named as the country’s next Prime Minister at an extraordinary session of the Diet on 16 September. Both the election and the change of guard were necessitated by Abe’s decision to step down on grounds of failing health.
As his long-time aide, it is pretty obvious that the forces of continuity have won over the forces of change.
“A political vacuum cannot be allowed amid the national crisis caused by the novel coronavirus,” was Mr Suga’s gracious response after his election as head of the LDP. We must overcome this crisis and continue the efforts of Prime Minister Abe. Let’s take this country forward.”
A major challenge will be Japan’s equation with China, a relationship Mr Abe had crafted with some care. Mr Suga scored a resounding victory with 377 votes in the first round of voting. LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida received 89 votes, and former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba gained 68 votes.
A total of 534 votes were cast by the 393 LDP Diet members, 282 from the House of Representatives, 111 from the House of Councillors and
47 prefectural LDP chapters. Each chapter had three votes for a total of 141. Altogether, the vote is a tribute to Abe’s leadership as Suga succeeds to an enormously encouraging inheritance.
Suga has been serving as Chief Cabinet Secretary ever since the inauguration of the second Abe cabinet in December 2012, and has been the backbone of the administration. In the build-up to the election, Suga called for continuity with the Abe administration and advocated striking a balance between containing the novel coronavirus and social and economic activities.
He does not belong to a faction, effectively making him the first party president without any affiliation. He has been fairly explicit in his enunciation of his agenda. In his address to the LDP lawmakers, he said, “My vision of society is one of self-help, mutual help, public help and bonding. We should do what we can do by ourselves, and help each other out in our communities and families. Then communities and families should help each other, and the government will provide a safety net to protect them. I want to create a government that will be trusted by the people.”
Japan bears witness to the first change of guard in eight years. And Yoshihide Suga will continue the tradition bequeated by Shinzo Abe.
Almost a latter-day rerun of a 1953 film, made by Yasujiro Ozu, from which we borrow the title of this comment.