Yoshihide Suga elected Japanese Prime Minister

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Yoshihide Suga appointed his new cabinet after a party vote in both houses of the Diet confirmed him as Japan’s 99th prime minister.

Mr Suga, 71, said his immediate priority would be to fight the Covid-19 pandemic after taking over from Shinzo Abe, who resigned as prime minister due to health concerns.

Although Mr Suga has promised to be a reformer, he has chosen to retain many ministers in the Abe administration, a sign that he will give high priority to political stability and continuity.

In his most notable appointment, Mr. Suga chose Mr. Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, as Minister of Defense. He also signaled one of his reform priorities by appointing a minister responsible for digital policy.

Two power brokers within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party – Taro Aso, 79, and Toshihiro Nikai, 81 – will remain respectively finance minister and general secretary of the LDP. Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Yasutoshi Nishimura, Minister of Economy, also remain in their posts.

The crucial role of the chief cabinet secretary, a combination of press secretary and behind-the-scenes enforcement agent, went to Katsunobu Kato, the Minister of Health. Mr. Suga was chief secretary to the cabinet of the Abe administration.

Despite Mr Suga’s promise to appoint reformers regardless of party politics, his cabinet is carefully balanced between internal LDP factions.

“It is the cabinet of a newcomer who does not want to risk any failure,” Jun Azumi, parliamentary chairman of the opposition Democratic Constitutional Party, told reporters.

Taro Kono, 57, considered one of the favorites for a candidate for prime minister in the future, will leave the defense ministry to become minister of administrative and regulatory reform. He will be responsible for meeting some of Mr. Suga’s highest priorities.

Only two of the 21 members of Mr. Suga’s cabinet are women: Yoko Kamikawa at the Justice Ministry and Seiko Hashimoto, who will be in charge of the Olympics. The imbalance continues the Abe administration’s weak record in promoting women to high-level cabinet positions.

Yoichi Masuzoe, former LDP minister and governor of Tokyo, said the new cabinet showed Suga’s concern for his allies.

Not only is Mr Abe’s younger brother appointed Minister of Defense, but Katsuei Hirasawa, Mr Abe’s childhood guardian, gets his first cabinet post at the age of 75.

The sons of two of Mr Suga’s political mentors will also join the cabinet. “The point is, are they up to the job? Mr. Masuzoe asked on Twitter.

The day started with a final meeting of the Abe cabinet before the former prime minister was kicked out of his official residence by staff early in the afternoon.

“For about eight years, I have put everything into the challenges of governance and diplomacy,” said Mr. Abe. “Unfortunately, there are still many problems, but there are things that we have achieved and that we have achieved.”

He added: “I will do my best to support the new government as a regular member of the Diet. As always, I will devote all my efforts to the future of Japan. And to everyone in the country, thank you very much for the past eight years.

The new government is expected to hold its first cabinet meeting late Wednesday before Mr Suga gives his first press conference as prime minister around 9 p.m.

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