UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Suga Yoshihide

Suga Yoshihide Nearly every day for the eight years, Suga Yoshihide had taken questions from reporters. Especially in times when the government faced tough criticism -- from allegations of corruption to unpopular policy decisions -- the top spokesperson seemed unflappable. Then, he took this step into the glare of the public eye. Suga unveiled Japan's new era name: Reiwa. It's an uncommon honor, which made millions look at the Prime Minister's trusted aide and adviser in a new light. It earned him the nickname "uncle Reiwa" -- and ignited political speculation about the man behind the podium.

Suga Yoshihide quickly emerged as a leading contender to succeed Abe Shinzo as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and prime minister of Japan. Power is a prize politicians vie for, not a ripe fruit that falls into their laps. With the abrupt resignation of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is looking most likely to step into Abe's shoes. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party decided to hold an abridged election, with ballots cast only by lawmakers and three representatives from each of the 47 prefectural chapters. It meant not all party members get to vote. The new format gave the advantage to Suga, a candidate who is close to Abe and had wide-ranging support among LDP lawmakers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said, "I am determined to do whatever I can to push forward the efforts that Prime Minister Abe had been making with all his might. Japan is facing a crisis, unlike anything we have ever experienced. We need to do all we can to promote social and economic activities while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. We have to protect jobs and revitalize the economy. We must steadily carry out reforms, with an eye to the post-coronavirus era."

Suga laid out his priorities 02 Septemer 2020. He was hoping to tackle challenges stemming from Japan's aging society, solve the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, and amend the Constitution. Suga had served as chief cabinet secretary for more than seven years... longer than anyone in history. Japan had faced major disasters and increased regional tension, including a spike in ballistic missile launches from North Korea. Suga had also pushed forward with the relocation of a US base in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, and promoted Japan as a destination for foreign tourists. Shortly after Suga officially announced his candidacy, leaders of the party's largest factions made their case for why he should be elected.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aso Taro said, "As a member of the cabinet, I appreciate what we have achieved during the past seven years. After watching his news conference, I'm convinced he is qualified to continue this government`s policies and I`ve decided to support him."

Suga's clout was dented somewhat by scandals that toppled two cabinet ministers close to him last October. But an increasing number of people in the party wanted him to succeed Abe in order to continue policies, including the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Suga wrote on his blog on 30 August 2020 that he will do his utmost to carry out his responsibilities to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the people. In the race to choose the new leader of Japan's main governing Liberal Democratic Party, support for Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide appeared to be widening. Suga was expected to officially announce his candidacy once the schedule for the election is decided.

SugaOn 31 August 2020, he met the head of the party's largest faction and other senior party members to ask for support. Finance Minister Aso Taro told the senior members of his faction, the second-largest in the party, to ensure that its members support Suga. Another faction led by Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro confirmed that it will also support Suga. Of the seven LDP factions, four have decided to back Suga, and another is likely to follow suit. Several groups of lawmakers who don't belong to any faction are also supporting him. This means that Suga had already secured support from more than two-thirds of the party lawmakers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide was effectively the Deputy Prime Minister. Suga doubles as minister in charge of the abduction issue. As his domestic profile soared with the Reiwa announcement. It is rare for a chief Cabinet secretary, who is tasked with the country's crisis control, to make a trip abroad. Suga had an established reputation for his prowess in assisting the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while keeping a watchful eye over bureaucrats at government ministries and agencies. His recognition among the Japanese public also surged after he announced the new Imperial era name "Reiwa" on April 1, earning him the nickname "Uncle Reiwa." Suga’s starring role in the unveiling of the new era name solved his name-recognition problem with a single stroke. Within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Suga was touted to be a favorite candidate in the next party leadership election.

On 26 September 2006 newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his Cabinet. In general, he made conservative choices and included many politicians with whom he had close relations as well as those who actively supported his campaign. Minister of Internal Affairs & Communication, Minister of State for Privatization of Postal Services -- Yoshihide SUGA, then 58, was a fourth term member of the Lower House representing Kanagawa 2nd district, first elected in 1996.

Suga is considered a close ally of Abe, both cheerleader and advisor, whose views closely reflect Abe's thinking. Suga organized the cross-factional Abe support group among younger members of the LDP in June 2006, enlisting 100 lawmakers to back Abe's "Second Chance" initiative. The so-called "Second Chance" campaign was designed to give people who have failed in business a second chance. In June 2005 Suga joined an LDP study group formed to support Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Suga also chaired an LDP study group to study economic sanctions on North Korea in October 2004.

Although considered a loyal supporter of Koizumi's reform agenda throughout the Koizumi administration, the media describe Suga as a party-oriented politician rather than a policy-oriented one. Formerly a member of the Kochikai faction, Suga belonged to the Niwa/Koga group. He served in several posts in the Koizumi Administration including as LDP Deputy Secretary General (2001), Parliamentary Secretary for MLIT (2002), Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) (2003), and the LDP's Deputy Chairman for the Diet Affairs Committee (2004). He was appointed Senior Vice Minister for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) in November 2005 where he was responsible for postal privatization and telecommunications issues. At MIC he was considered a strong supporter of former MIC Minister Takenaka. Despite that, his specific views on postal privatization are unknown among those who have closely followed the debate on postal privatization.

In the 2012 LDP leadership election, Suga persuaded Abe to run in the race, telling him that he was the sole viable candidate. A senior ruling party official commented, "If Suga was told he would be the only viable contender in the next party leadership race, he probably wouldn't be able to decline." As the cabinet’s key spokesperson, Suga had done a remarkable job of avoiding gaffes or sparking controversy at his numerous press conferences and briefings. He may not be entertaining, but he is certainly reliable.

Suga was born and raised in Akita Prefecture, northern Japan, as the son of a strawberry farmer. Such roots might help explain his strong belief in boosting regional economies. He had repeatedly expressed pride about introducing a program in 2008 that allows people to pick which local government gets their residential tax. Suga had also suggested there are too many regional banks in Japan - especially as the population continues to fall in rural areas. He stresses the need to consolidate those with poor profitability while providing more support to small and medium-sized enterprises. Doing this will require regulatory reform - something Suga says he will carry out as prime minister.

Suga is a strong advocate of cheaper communication fees. He had constantly pressured telecommunications firms to slash mobile phone rates by as much as 40 percent, and might also take aim at other public utility charges, too. Still, experts say any price cuts could fly in the face of the government's 2-percent inflation target. On the other hand, Suga says another consumption tax increase may be on the cards - citing the government's mounting debts and a social security bill pushed ever higher by Japan's aging society. He was quick to stress that it wouldn't happen within the next 10 years, but that doesn't mean he won't move toward fiscal consolidation after the coronavirus pandemic.

Promoting digitization had become a top priority ever since the pandemic began. The government's bungled distribution of subsidies to businesses and people led to growing public anger. The fact that IT infrastructure on the federal and local levels is not connected had made it difficult for those in need to navigate the online application system. Suga had also served as Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication. He recently put forward the idea of rearranging and unifying government institutions and having one single agency handle digital policy. He vows to break down the walls among different government agencies.

At a time when most LDP Diet members are either former bureaucrats or the products of political dynasties, Suga stood out as a self-made politician. Suga was born 06 December 1948 in the northern Prefecture of Akita, the first son of a farmer. After graduating high school in Akita, he left for Tokyo and graduated from Hosei University's Faculty of Law. He worked as secretary for Hikosaburo Okonogi, a member of the Lower House, for 11 years. In 1987 Suga was elected to the Yokohama City Council. He still lives in an apartment in Yokohama City with his wife and three sons. His policy interests include economic sanctions against North Korea, illegal immigration, reform of the social insurance system, public safety, youth baseball and soccer. Suga enjoys eating candy, bread and seafood. He does not drink alcohol. Hobbies include karaoke, jogging and fishing.

Japan's Prime Minister would not try to keep the helm of the main governing Liberal Democratic Party. on 03 September 2021 Suga Yoshihide dropped out of its upcoming leadership election, meaning the country will have a new Prime Minister within weeks. Suga said, "As I was planning to run, I found I needed a lot of energy to think about coronavirus measures and the election campaign. I decided that it's impossible to do both, and that I should devote myself to trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which is something that I promised the people of this country that I would do."

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 06-09-2021 15:33:45 ZULU