Yoshihide Suga waits to speak during a debate hosted by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at LDP's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept 9, 2020. (PHILIP FONG, KA YUEN FONG / POOL PHOTO / AFP)
TOKYO - Yoshihide Suga, on course to become Japan's next prime minister, said he would maintain incumbent premier Shinzo Abe's policy prioritizing economic growth over efforts to fix the country's tattered finances.
Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, also said he would continue to focus on revitalizing regional economies, which he described as among key pillars of "Abenomics".
Suga said he would continue to focus on revitalizing regional economies, which he described as among key pillars of "Abenomics"
"A strong economy is necessary for social welfare, national security and fiscal reform," Suga said at a debate hosted by the ruling party on Wednesday. "We must first revive the economy, because only then can we push through fiscal reform."
The remarks reinforce market expectations that an administration led by Suga won't trigger big changes to the pro-growth economic policies Shinzo Abe championed during his nearly eight-year stint as prime minister.
If he becomes Japan's next leader, Suga will face the daunting task of containing the coronavirus pandemic while managing the economic consequences.
Japan, the world's third-largest economy, sank deeper into its worst postwar recession in the second quarter, data showed on Tuesday, underscoring the challenges policymakers faces in dealing with the economic blow from COVID-19.
Suga enjoys a comfortable lead in the ruling party's race against two rival candidates - former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida.
A Kyodo news agency poll on Wednesday showed Suga is the favorite choice among respondents to be the next prime minister, eclipsing his rival candidates.
Suga had 50.2 percent support, ahead of Ishiba with 30.9 percent and Kishida with 8.0 percent, the poll showed.
Japan's former foreign minister Fumio Kishida (left), Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (center) and ex-defense minister Shigeru Ishiba wave to the camera after taking part in a debate hosted by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at LDP's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept 9, 2020. (PHILIP FONG, KA YUEN FONG / POOL PHOTO / AFP)
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election will be held on Sept 14, a date set after Abe's decision to step down for health reasons. The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP's parliamentary majority.
Suga has support to become party leader from almost 80% of LDP members with seats in parliament, the Asahi said. That means Suga already has 58% of total LDP votes, more than the majority required
An Asahi newspaper tally showed Suga has support to become the LDP's leader from 308 - almost 80 percent - of ruling party members with seats in parliament.
That means he already has 58 percent of total LDP votes - more than the majority required - without even counting the additional 141 votes from party prefecture chapters.
Ishiba has been a popular figure among the public while Kishida has the diplomatic experience that Suga lacks, but they have only a fraction of the LDP support that Suga enjoys, the Asahi tally shows.
Suga has played a key role as Abe's lieutenant in pushing through Abenomics, though the policies' initial gains have been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Suga repeated his stance that he was prepared to meet with the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, "with no preconditions" if needed to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by DPRK agents.
HONG KONG NEWS