Japan’s Suga Wins Race to Replace Prime Minister Abe Sept 15, 2020 21:23:23 GMT
Post by Admin on Sept 15, 2020 21:23:23 GMT
Sep.14 -- Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party elected Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as leader to replace the ailing Shinzo Abe, setting up the first change of Prime Minister in nearly eight years. Bloomberg’s Stephen Engle reports on “Bloomberg Surveillance.”
The right-hand man of Japan’s longest-reigning Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who orchestrated the administration’s control of the press and helped cover up the corruption scandals that forced Abe to resign, is set to be the next prime minister.
Yoshihide Suga was crowned the president of Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), on Monday in an election that had been pre-decided in back-room deals. The LDP controls the lower house of Japan’s parliament and so their president will become the new prime minister. The Japanese press, who Suga has successfully tamed, did their best to spin his ascension as a story of a simple hard-working boy from a rural prefecture who worked his way to the top. But the real Suga is no country bumpkin. He is an information junkie, a control freak, loyal to his boss to a fault, ruthless, vindictive, and never forgets a favor or a slight. In a way, he shares many of the qualities that would make him an ideal number two in any yakuza organization in Japan; indeed, his past ties to the yakuza may come to haunt him as he takes power.
Who is Yoshihide Suga?
The best authority on Yoshihide Suga turns out to be himself. He has written a book, The Resolution of a Politician (2012), and is a skilled essayist who has been published in Japanese periodicals. Suga, age 71, was born in a farming village in Akita Prefecture where his wealthy family reportedly had a successful strawberry plantation. While most people in the area entered the labor force after graduating from middle school, Suga went on to high school. By 38 he had entered politics as Yokohama City Council Member, and within a decade he was in the national parliament. When Abe ran for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2006, Suga backed him all the way.
As Abe rose politically, so did Suga. When Abe—plagued by scandal and illness, was no longer able to stomach being the PM in 2007—he resigned for the first time. Suga, ever the loyal vassal, did not abandon his master even in semi-political exile. By helping him win the backing of the powerful right-wing lobby and Shinto cult, Nippon Kaigi, Suga paved Abe's way for a return to power.
Suga is the longest serving cabinet secretary in Japanese history, and it is a crucial position. The cabinet secretary speaks to the press twice a day and in some ways may be said to actually rule the country. The secretary coordinates policy across government ministries, is the conduit between the prime minister and his political party, is on-call 24/7 to deal with crisis management, and is sometimes called “the shadow prime-minister.” A 2016 book by Isao Mori, The Reflection Of The Prime Minister, details just how powerful Suga had become in his position.
Suga’s own political accomplishments are rather minor. He is credited for getting telecommunications operators to drop their comparatively high-priced mobile phone rates. He pushed for the relaxation of visa rules to spur tourism in Japan. He masterminded the furusato nōzei (hometown tax donation) program, which permits tax reductions for those who make donations to the municipality of their choice.
Suga, despite his dour demeanor, is immensely sociable. He spends each night attending several dinner and drinking sessions with journalists, politicians, academics, influential power brokers, and sometimes bureaucrats. They may get drunk but he never does; Suga doesn’t touch alcohol. He has different thirsts: a thirst for power, a thirst for respect, a thirst for influence. For breakfast, he dines with businessmen, CEOs, and economists. He stays in good shape; he does 100 sit-ups a day and has a spartan fitness regimen.
He is also an avid reader. One of his favorite books is a novel about Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) who rose from a peasant background to become one of the most powerful rulers in Japan. It’s easy to see why Suga admires him. Toyotomi operated in the shadows most of his life but when he seized power, he ruled effectively and brutally. He launched a failed war to take over Korea in 1592, a war of such epic cruelty that even Japanese scholars of the time noted the terrible atrocities. Toyotomi was also very vain, despite the fact that Lord Nobunaga had dubbed him “kozaru” (little monkey) because of his simian appearance and stature. In the LDP, some of Suga’s opponents call him “kozaru” behind his back—but never to his face.