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After Abe, will Japan return to a ‘revolving door’ premiership?

12 6 1

Tobias Harris – It wasn’t too long ago that Yoshihide Suga was an afterthought in the post-Abe sweepstakes.

As recently as late July, the Nikkei Shimbun found that among supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party, only 4 percent supported Suga for Japan’s next prime minister, trailing not only his eventual contenders former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, but also Constitutional Democratic Party leader Yukio Edano.

After more than seven years as the power behind Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was difficult to imagine the dour Suga rising to the top job.

Yet on Wednesday, he was selected by the legislature as Japan’s 99th prime minister.

Given that Suga is still a relatively unknown quantity as a leader, some in the political and diplomatic community fret whether Abe’s chief lieutenant will be able to maintain political stability after Abe’s tenure of nearly eight years. The fear is that once again, Japan could devolve to the “revolving-door” premiership that preceded Abe’s record-setting tenure. Indeed, before Abe returned to power, Japan saw six prime ministers come and go in as many years — including Abe himself in 2007.

Those concerns may be overblown. The speed with which Suga secured the support of Toshihiro Nikai, the LDP’s secretary-general, and then the leaders of four other major factions — bringing a majority of the public along too — suggests that he should not be underestimated. In fact, it shows that he is a formidable politician who may well be capable of serving as more than a caretaker for the remaining year of Abe’s term and able to avoid the revolving door from spinning again at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Perhaps the factor most in his favor is that polls suggest........

© The Japan Times

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