Japan’s Suga Set to Win Ruling Party Race in Landslide, NHK Says

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is set to win an election Monday for leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party with an overwhelming majority, public broadcaster NHK said, citing its own survey.

Suga, who has been the right-hand man to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is likely to win at least 52 of the 141 votes allocated to regional party branches, and about 70% of the 394 votes allotted to party lawmakers, NHK said. That would give him more than 60% of the 535 votes up for grabs, handing him an outright majority in a race that includes former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

LDP lawmakers from both houses of parliament are set to vote from 2 p.m. at a Tokyo hotel. The LDP, which has been in government almost continuously since 1955, is expected to use its majority in parliament to elect Suga on Wednesday as the new prime minister to replace Abe, who is ending his record run as premier due to health reasons.

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Meanwhile, Finance Minister Taro Aso stoked speculation about an early election, saying it could happen “soon” to legitimize the new administration, Kyodo News reported. While Suga has repeatedly said the public doesn’t want an election during the pandemic, a surge in support for the cabinet gave rise to ideas that the new premier would call one soon.

Suga has pledged to continue the signature ultra-easy monetary policy of the current premier dubbed “Abenomics.” He added that more should be done on monetary policy, if needed, to protect jobs and companies during the current virus crisis.

Any sign of a departure from the path of Abenomics could send the yen surging and stocks sliding, triggering a re-evaluation of the outlook for the nation.

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