Yoshihide Suga has been elected by Japan’s parliament as the country’s new prime minister, following the surprise resignation of Shinzo Abe.
After winning the leadership of the governing party earlier this week, today’s vote confirms the former chief cabinet secretary’s new position.
A close ally of Shinzo Abe, Yoshihide Suga is expected to continue his predecessor’s policies.
Shinzo Abe announced his resignation last month citing health issues.
On September 16, Shinzo Abe held his final cabinet meeting and told reporters he was proud of his achievements during his nearly eight years in power.
Yoshihide Suga then easily won a poll for prime minister in the Diet, Japan’s lower house, receiving 314 out of 462 votes.
Given that a coalition headed by his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds the majority in the house, Yoshihide Suga’s win was widely expected.
Along with his new cabinet Suga will later be ceremonially endorsed by the emperor at the Imperial Palace.
A veteran politician and long-time cabinet member, Yoshihide Suga takes the lead at a difficult time for the world’s third-largest economy.
Like many other nations, Japan is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused the biggest economic slump on record following years of economic stagnations.
Japan is also dealing with a rapidly ageing society, with nearly a third of the population older than 65.
Yoshihide Suga, 71, has served for years as chief cabinet secretary, the most senior role in government after the prime minister.
He has already promised to carry on much of the previous administration’s agenda, including the economic reform program dubbed Abenomics.
Born the son of strawberry farmers, Yoshihide Suga comes from a humble background that sets him apart from much of Japan’s political elite.
He only slowly within the political ranks. He first worked as a secretary for an LDP lawmaker before eventually embarking on his own political career, from city council elections to becoming a member of the Diet in 1996.
In 2005 he became a cabinet minister under Junichiro Koizumi and gained further influence in the subsequent Abe cabinet.
As Shinzo Abe’s right-hand man, Yoshihide Suga gained a reputation for being efficient and practical and the outgoing prime minister strongly supported his ally’s bid for the leadership.