Yoshihide Suga
菅 義偉
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga giving his first press conference as Prime Minister on 16 September 2020.
Suga in September 2020
Prime Minister of Japan
Assumed office
16 September 2020
MonarchNaruhito
DeputyTarō Asō
Preceded byShinzō Abe
President of the Liberal Democratic Party
Assumed office
14 September 2020
Secretary-GeneralToshihiro Nikai
Preceded byShinzo Abe
Chief Cabinet Secretary
In office
26 December 2012 – 16 September 2020
Prime MinisterShinzo Abe
Preceded byOsamu Fujimura
Succeeded byKatsunobu Katō
Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications
In office
26 September 2006 – 27 August 2007
Prime MinisterShinzo Abe
Preceded byHeizō Takenaka
Succeeded byHiroya Masuda
Member of the House of Representatives
for Kanagawa 2nd District
Assumed office
20 October 1996
Preceded byConstituency established
Majority76,027 (34.6%)
Personal details
Born (1948-12-06) 6 December 1948 (age 71)
Yuzawa, Japan
Political partyLiberal Democratic
Spouse(s)Mariko Suga
Children3
Alma materHosei University (LLB)
WebsiteOfficial website

Yoshihide Suga (菅 義偉, Suga Yoshihide, [sɯɡa joɕiꜜçide]; born 6 December 1948) is a Japanese politician serving as the current prime minister of Japan. He was the chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from 2012 to 2020 and minister for internal affairs and communications from 2006 to 2007.

Born to a family of strawberry farmers in rural Akita Prefecture, Suga moved to Tokyo after graduating from high school, where he enrolled in Hosei University.[1] Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws, Suga became an aide to Representative Hikosaburo Okonogi in 1975 before entering politics himself when he was elected to the Yokohama Municipal Assembly in 1987.[2] In the 1996 election, Suga was elected to the House of Representatives, representing Kanagawa's 2nd District as a member of the LDP.

During his time in the Diet, Suga became a close ally of Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe. When Abe first became Prime Minister in 2006, he appointed Suga to the Cabinet as Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. Abe later appointed Suga as Chief Cabinet Secretary in 2012 upon his return as Prime Minister, a role Suga would hold throughout Abe's second term.[3] He is the longest-serving Chief Cabinet Secretary in Japanese history. In September 2020, after Abe announced his retirement from politics, Suga declared his candidacy in the LDP leadership election. Widely considered the frontrunner, Suga comfortably won the election on 14 September with 70% of the vote. Two days later, he was formally elected Prime Minister by the Diet and appointed by Emperor Naruhito, making him the first new Prime Minister of the Reiwa era.[4]

Suga has stated that his premiership will focus on continuing the policies and goals of the Abe administration, including the Abenomics suite of economics policies, the revision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, and securing the release of Japanese abductees from North Korea.[5]

Early life and education

Suga was born to a family of strawberry farmers in Ogachi (now Yuzawa), a rural area in Akita Prefecture, and moved to Tokyo after graduation from Yuzawa High School. He attended night school to obtain a Bachelor of Laws from Hosei University in 1973.[6][7] Suga chose Hosei "because it was the cheapest option available" and he "worked in a cardboard factory in Tokyo to pay his tuition".[8]

Political career

Suga with Ichita Yamamoto and Satsuki Katayama (19 September 2006)

After graduating from university, Suga worked on a House of Councillors (upper house) election campaign, and thereafter worked as secretary to LDP Diet Member Hikosaburo Okonogi, father of LDP politician Hachiro Okonogi, for eleven years. Suga resigned from this position in October 1986 to pursue his own career in politics.[9] He was elected to the Yokohama City Council in April 1987, campaigning door-to-door on foot, visiting as many as 30,000 houses and wearing through six pairs of shoes.[10][11] He pioneered the practice of giving campaign speeches in front of busy train stations, which is now common among Japanese political candidates.[12] Despite being a young councilor, Suga presided over the highest levels of government, which earned him the nickname "the shadow mayor."[13]

Representative

Suga was elected to the Diet of Japan in the 1996 general election, representing the Kanagawa 2nd district. In his third year in the Diet, he shifted his support from Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to former LDP Secretary-General Seiroku Kajiyama, an unusual move for a junior legislator.[14][12] He was re-elected in the 2000 general election, 2003 general election, and 2005 general election.[citation needed]

He was appointed Senior Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications in November 2005 under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He was promoted to Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications and Minister for Privatization of the Postal Services in the first Shinzo Abe cabinet in September 2006, and added the portfolio of Minister of State for Decentralization Reform in December 2006.[10] He was instrumental in the development of Japan's "hometown donation" (ふるさと納税, furusato nōzei) system, which allowed taxpayers to obtain deductions by donating money to local governments.[6] He was replaced by Hiroya Masuda in a cabinet reshuffle in August 2007.[15]

His "street-corner" campaigning style was credited with holding his seat in the 2009 general election, when many other LDP lawmakers lost their seats amid a surge in support for the Democratic Party of Japan.[14]

In October 2011, he was appointed Chairman of the LDP Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters. In September 2012, he was appointed Executive Acting Secretary-General of the LDP.[10]

As a Diet member, Suga built a power base among legislators not affiliated with the party's factions, particularly a group of young first-generation lawmakers known as the "Ganesha group."[16]

Chief Cabinet Secretary

Suga (right) shaking hands with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in 2013
Suga (third from right) at the announcement of the Okinawa Consolidation Plan in 2013

Suga remained close to Shinzo Abe during the late 2000s and early 2010s, and urged Abe to run for the LDP presidency in 2012.[6] Unlike many of Abe's other allies, Suga pushed Abe to focus on the economy rather than Abe's long-standing ambition to revise Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from using a military as means of settling international disputes.[14]

Following Abe's victory in the 2012 general election, Suga was appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary in the second Abe cabinet in December 2012. In September 2014, he was given the additional portfolio of Minister in charge of Alleviating the Burden of the Bases in Okinawa.[10] Suga and Tarō Asō were the only members of the December 2012 cabinet who remained in the cabinet as of November 2019.[17] Suga is by far the longest-serving Chief Cabinet Secretary in Japanese history, serving his post for a total of 2,820 days; the second longest-serving Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, served for a total of 1,289 days, less than half as long as Suga.[3]

As Chief Cabinet Secretary, Suga served as an aide and advisor to Abe, and took an active managerial role in the government. He had a key role in the government's initiatives to attract tourists and foreign workers and reduce mobile telephone rates.[8] He formed a team to reexamine the lead-up to the Kono Statement of 1993 but the group was soon after disbanded without ever reaching a consensus.[18] He was affiliated with the openly nationalist organisation Nippon Kaigi.[19] Under Abe, Suga overcame party resistance to implement a visa program that opened the doors for unskilled foreign workers, a shift from the previous policy, which centered on internship programs that often confined foreign workers to low-paying jobs.[20] He was also supportive of the aggressive measures by the Bank of Japan to counter deflation.[21] In 2015, he was criticized for publicly encouraging Japanese women to "contribute to their country by feeling like they want to have more children".[22] He continued to hold his seat in the 2014 general election and 2017 general election.[citation needed]

Suga gained domestic and international fame when he announced the name of the new imperial era, Reiwa, on 1 April 2019, earning him the nickname "Uncle Reiwa" (Reiwa Ojisan).[23][24] While he had previously been a low-profile member of the government, this honor gave him an instant surge in name recognition and led more LDP lawmakers to view him as a viable candidate for party leadership.[6][17] He was sent to Washington in May 2019 for a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials, fueling speculation that he was being groomed to serve as Abe's successor.[7][8] Suga faced scrutiny later that year due to the resignations of Cabinet ministers Katsuyuki Kawai and Isshu Sugawara, both of whom had been close associates of Suga and were accused of campaign financing violations.[17] Suga also remained politically active during this time, coordinating support for the LDP candidate in the 2019 Hokkaido gubernatorial election, a role typically reserved for top LDP officials.[8]

Suga announcing the new imperial era name "Reiwa" on 1 April 2019

Suga served as a key Abe deputy during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He criticized the structure of the Japanese bureaucracy, with deep divisions between ministries, as stalling coordination to stop the spread of the virus.[25]


Prime Minister of Japan

Following Shinzo Abe's resignation announcement in August 2020, Suga emerged as the leading contender to replace Abe on the leadership election, having gained the support of Deputy Prime Minister Tarō Asō and LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, as well as the two largest factions in the LDP and supposedly even Abe himself.[26] Suga's main competitors in the LDP leadership race were longtime Abe rival Shigeru Ishiba and LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida.[27][28]

Suga was elected to the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party on 14 September 2020, with 377 votes out of a total of 534.[29][30] Upon his election, Suga outlined a policy agenda that included tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and implementing further deregulation to revitalize the economy. He reiterated his past interest in consolidating regional banks and lowering mobile phone charges in Japan.[31][32] Suga vowed to continue the economic policies of his predecessor, known as Abenomics, and to continue the path of Shinzo Abe in terms of foreign policy, making his "top priority" the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.[33][34] He and his cabinet were sworn in on 16 September 2020.[35]

Personal life

Suga is married and has three sons.[36] His wife, Mariko, is the sister of one of his former co-workers in the office of Hikosaburo Okonogi.[37]

Suga has a daily fitness routine, which includes doing 100 situps and 40 minutes of walking each morning, and 100 situps each night. He started this routine after a doctor advised him to lose weight, and he lost 14 kg (31 lb) in four months.[12]

References

  1. ^ "Who is Yoshihide Suga, Japan's next prime minister?". Mainichi Shimbun. 14 September 2020. Archived from the original on 15 September 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Japan's Next Prime Minister Emerges From Behind the Curtain". The New York Times. 14 September 2020. Archived from the original on 16 September 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Key Government Post of Chief Cabinet Secretary". nippon.com. 27 May 2019. Archived from the original on 4 March 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  4. ^ Sieg, Linda (29 August 2020). "In race to replace Japan's Abe, loyalist Suga emerges as strong contender". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 August 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  5. ^ Rich, Motoko; Inoue, Makiko; Dooley, Ben (14 September 2020). "Japan's Next Prime Minister Emerges From Behind the Curtain". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 September 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Hashimoto, Goro (3 July 2019). "Suga Yoshihide: Japan's Next Prime Minister?". nippon.com. Archived from the original on 3 July 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b Ryall, Julian (5 May 2019). "Who will lead Japan after Abe? Washington visit offers new clues". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 27 August 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Shigeta, Shunsuke (12 May 2019). "How Abe's deputy Suga grew to power broker and possible successor". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 31 August 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  9. ^ プロフィール 菅義偉を語る人々. 内閣官房長官・衆議院議員 菅(すが)義偉 ホームページ (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 1 September 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
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  11. ^ "Can-Do Attitude Took Yoshihide Suga From Strawberry Fields to Japan's Pinnacle". www.wsj.com. The Wall Street Journal. 4 September 2020. Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Marutani, Hiroshi (27 January 2019). "Who is Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga?". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  13. ^ McCurry, Justin (14 September 2020). "Yoshihide Suga: the farmer's son set to be Japan's next PM". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Marutani, Hiroshi (12 September 2018). "How Abe's right-hand man has shaped policy in Japan". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  15. ^ 総務省|歴代の大臣・副大臣・政務官. 総務省 (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  16. ^ Kato, Masaya (24 September 2020). "Rookie 'Ganesha' lawmakers propelled Suga to become Japan's PM". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Abe, Ryutaro (1 November 2019). "Suga's influence could wane with resignation of second associate". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 3 February 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  18. ^ "Japan to review lead-up to WW2 comfort women statement". www.bbc.com. The BBC. 28 February 2014. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  19. ^ "Abe’s reshuffle promotes right-wingers" – Korea Joongang Daily – 2014/09/05 Archived 4 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "'Suganomics' from A to Z: policies of Japan's PM front-runner". www.asia.nikkei.com/. Asia Nikkei Review. 2 September 2020. Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Government Applauds BOJs Step Into Negative Territory". Japan Times. 13 March 2016. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  22. ^ McCurry, Justin (30 September 2015). "Japanese politician in sexism row after call for women to have more babies". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  23. ^ Osaki, Tomohiro; Murakami, Sakura (1 April 2019). "Reiwa: Japan reveals name of new era ahead of Emperor's abdication". The Japan Times Online. ISSN 0447-5763. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  24. ^ "Yoshihide Suga: The 'right-hand man' who became PM". BBC News. 16 September 2020. Archived from the original on 17 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  25. ^ Shigeta, Shunsuke (24 April 2020). "Abe's right-hand man wants a Japan less reliant on China". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 29 August 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  26. ^ Kuronuma, Susumu (1 September 2020). "Abe's silent nod opened floodgates of support for longtime aide". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 3 September 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  27. ^ "Japan succession race kicks off, starring Abe's deputies and rival". Nikkei Asian Review. 29 August 2020. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  28. ^ Sieg, Linda (29 August 2020). "In race to replace Japan's Abe, loyalist Suga emerges as strong contender". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 August 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  29. ^ "Yoshihide Suga Wins LDP Party Leadership Race With Overwhelming Support". JAPAN Forward. 14 September 2020. Archived from the original on 16 September 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  30. ^ "Yoshihide Suga set to become Japan's new PM". BBC News. 14 September 2020. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  31. ^ "Suga vows to tackle pandemic and digitize government". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 16 September 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  32. ^ Adelstein, Jake (14 September 2020). "Japan's Ruthless New PM Is a Control Freak Who Muzzled the Press". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 14 September 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  33. ^ "Suga Vows to Continue Abe's Foreign Policies". Nippon English. 5 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  34. ^ Sim, Walter (17 September 2020). "Japan's new PM Suga vows to press on with Abe-era policies". Straits Times. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  35. ^ "Suga becomes Japan PM, forms continuity Cabinet as Abe era ends". Kyodo News. 16 September 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  36. ^ "プロフィール". 内閣官房長官・衆議院議員 菅(すが)義偉 ホームページ (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 1 September 2020. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  37. ^ "菅官房長官 ひと目ぼれで結婚…令和おじさんの意外すぎる半生 | 女性自身". WEB女性自身 (in Japanese). 11 April 2019. Archived from the original on 6 May 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2020.

External links

House of Representatives of Japan
New title
New constituency
Representative for Kanagawa 2nd District
1996–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Heizō Takenaka
Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Hiroya Masuda
Preceded by
Osamu Fujimura
Chief Cabinet Secretary
2012–2020
Succeeded by
Katsunobu Katō
Preceded by
Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
2020–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Shinzo Abe
President of the Liberal Democratic Party
2020–present
Incumbent