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Yoshihide Suga succeeds Shinzo Abe as Japan’s leader

Japan Suga

Yoshihide Suga - now the chief cabinet secretary, who is widely considered to be a close confidant to the PM - was selected on Monday to replace Abe as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and is all but ensured to secure confirmation on Wednesday, given the party's parliamentary majority.

Japan's newly elected Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga poses for a portrait at his office following a press conference at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) headquarters in Tokyo on 14 September 2020.

Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary and the top government spokesman under Abe, selected a Cabinet that is a mix of fresh faces and current or former ministers.

Suga has stressed his background as a farmer's son and a self-made politician in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities. About half of the members in the Abe Cabinet are expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.

Abe, who resigned earlier Wednesday along with his cabinet, is ending his record run in office with a year left in his mandate.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles - so-called bureaucratic silos - than any grand political guiding principles.

Suga faces numerous challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic, a slumping economy and China's actions in the East China Sea. More of the same, he says.

Abe said before the change was official that as a lawmaker, he will support Suga's government and he thanked the people for their understanding and their strong support for Suga.

Kono is reportedly set to become minister in charge of administrative reform, a portfolio Suga considers particularly important.

Senior figures including Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso are expected to stay on in their jobs.

There are only two women, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, and Olympics and Paralympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.

In a brief farewell ceremony, Abe was presented with a bouquet as all Prime Minister's Office staff and Suga lined up and applauded until he disappeared into his auto.

With little direct diplomatic experience, Suga must also cope with an intensifying U.S. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whomever wins the US presidential race.

Relations with China may prove trickier with a global hardening of opinion against Beijing after the coronavirus and unrest in Hong Kong.