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Reports: Key Aide to Outgoing Japanese PM to Seek Party Leadership

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga wearing a face mask walks to attend Prime Minister Shizo Abe's press conference at prime minister's office in Tokyo Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. Japan's longest-serving prime minister Abe intends to leave…

Japanese news outlets say Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will seek to succeed Shinzo Abe as the country’s next prime minister.

Suga is expected to announce sometime this week that he will seek the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Other candidates expected to vie for the post include former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Under Japan’s parliamentary system, the ruling party elects the person who will become prime minister, usually the party leader.

An opinion poll of the general public taken by Kyodo News shows 34% of those asked want Ishiba to become the next prime minister, with Suga a distant second at 14%. Ishiba unsuccessfully challenged Abe for LDP president in the last intraparty race in 2018.

However, analysts say Suga is likely to have more support among the party’s members of parliament and could come out ahead if the voting is restricted to them and the party’s officials.

A leadership vote is expected to be held on September 14.

Abe unexpectedly announced his resignation last Friday a year before his current term expires, citing the recurrence of ulcerative colitis, which has plagued him for much of his life. The illness forced him to cut short his first tenure as prime minister in 2007 after just one year in office.

The 65-year-old Abe just became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister last Monday, breaking the record of his great-uncle, Eisaku Sato, who served 2,798 days from 1964 to 1972.