Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has elected Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as its new leader , setting the stage for him to become the Asian powerhouse's next prime minister.
Suga won 377 of the 535 available votes on Monday, the LDP announced.
The LDP, which has ruled mostly uninterrupted since 1955, is now set to use its parliamentary majority to replace the outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe with Suga in a separate vote on Wednesday.
"We cannot have any void in policy," Suga said after the vote. "It is my mission to carry forward what has been done under Prime Minister Abe."
"I want to create a government that people can trust. I will push ahead with deregulation and put an end to ministry sectionalism, endemic vested interests and the practice of blindly following past precedents," Suga added. "I will create a working cabinet."
Abe, who has served since 2012, announced on Aug. 28 that he would step down due to poor health after a relapse of an intestinal disease called ulcerative colitis, just days after he became the longest-serving prime minister in the country's history in terms of consecutive days in office.
Suga's main rivals for the post of premiership had been former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, known for his frank criticism of the Abe government, and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida. They won 68 and 89 votes respectively.
The lineup of Suga's cabinet is now the subject of media speculation.
Suga, 71, has stressed that his biggest job as the new prime minister will be to revive the country's economy. He will serve out Abe's leadership term until September 2021.
“I was born as the oldest son of a farmer in Akita,” Suga said. “Without any knowledge or blood ties, I launched into the world of politics, starting from zero - and have been able to become leader of the LDP, with all its traditions and history.”
“I will devote all of myself to work for Japan and its citizens,” he added.
He has already made it clear that he will adhere to the economic policies of the Abe administration.
Suga, viewed as a diplomat with little experience in international relations, will need to lead Japan through the coronavirus outbreak, challenging relations with China, as well as the upcoming US presidential election whatever the outcome shall be.