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Japan’s new leader Yoshihide Suga was Shinzo Abe’s key enforcer of Abenomics. But he has to tackle coronavirus and the recession

Yoshihide Suga in a press conference, after being elected as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

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Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party Monday chose close Shinzo Abe confidant Yoshihide Suga as leader and Japan’s next Prime Minister, in an overwhelming show of support that signals continuity with the resigning PM’s policies.

– Suga, 71, the son of a strawberry grower from northern Japan, served as chief cabinet secretary during the eight years of the Abe administration. He was a key enforcer of “Abenomics,” the economic policy based on long-term monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms.

– He will formally become prime minister after a vote of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) on Wednesday. But he is only serving Abe’s remaining year as LDP leader, and will face a new leadership election in September 2021.

– Japanese political analysts expect Suga to call for a general election before the end of the year, to give him the popular mandate that will help him push through further economic reforms.

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The outlook: Suga’s lack of international and diplomatic experience may prove a hindrance, most notably when elaborating Japan’s policy toward increasingly assertive China, or dealing with President Donald Trump’s frequent tirades against countries that export a lot to the U.S., and uncertain commitment to the defense of U.S. allies. But the new PM’s main task in the short term is to pull the country’s economy from the depths of its current recession. Japan, already plagued by slow growth before the coronavirus, has been hit by a steep fall in both consumer demand and exports, as world trade slowed on the pandemic impact.

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