On Sept. 16, Yoshihide Suga was elected as Japan’s 99th prime minister, following the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Suga was Abe’s right-hand man, serving as the chief cabinet secretary and achieving the longest tenure in Japanese history for this position. Now as prime minister, Suga is widely expected to continue many of Abe’s policies and has publicly vowed to do so.
True to his words, his cabinet appointments include many holdovers, and his policy pronouncements so far demonstrate few deviations from Abe’s agenda, which Suga helped shape. Suga will first focus on measures to address health and economic setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and then will pursue other goals such as regulatory reform, digitalization to improve efficiency in government agencies, and the reorganization of small firms and local banks to increase their productivity.
None of these is a radically new idea and, at least initially, Suga is unlikely to steer Japan away from the direction that Abe set over the past seven years and eight months. However, there are some key differences between the two men that could produce different electoral and policy outcomes for Suga’s administration.
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