TOKYO (Reuters) — Japan’s Yoshihide Suga was voted prime minister by parliament’s lower house on Wednesday, becoming the country’s first new leader in nearly eight years, as he readied a “continuity cabinet” expected to keep about half of predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup.
Suga, 71, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, has pledged to pursue many of Abe’s programs, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy, and to forge ahead with structural reforms, including deregulation and streamlining bureaucracy.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving premier, resigned because of ill health after nearly eight years in office. Suga served under him in the pivotal post of chief cabinet secretary.
Suga won 314 votes out of 462 cast by parliament’s lower house members. The chamber takes precedence in electing a premier over the upper house, which was also expected to pick Suga because of a ruling bloc majority.
Suga, who won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race by a landslide on Monday, faces a plethora of challenges, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.