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Suga elected LDP president, expected to replace Abe as Japan PM

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's former chief cabinet secretary, poses Monday for a portrait following his election as Liberal Democratic Party president, in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Nicolas Datiche/EPA-EFE/Pool
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's former chief cabinet secretary, poses Monday for a portrait following his election as Liberal Democratic Party president, in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Nicolas Datiche/EPA-EFE/Pool

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Yoshihide Suga captured the Liberal Democratic Party presidency in Japan Monday, almost assuring that he will officially replace Shinzo Abe as prime minister in a vote later this week.

Suga, 71, beat out two other major rivals for the leadership post, former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida.

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The Liberal Democratic Party controls Japan's House of Representatives and holds a majority in the House of Councilors, making Suga the favorite to become prime minister when a Diet vote occurs on Wednesday.

Suga, Abe's chief cabinet secretary, has been described as a loyalist who trailed early in the polls but quickly gathered mainstream party backing.

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"We need to inherit and facilitate policies promoted by Prime Minister Abe in order for us to overcome this crisis and for each and every individual to have a safe and stable life," Suga told a joint meeting of party members. "I recognize that I carry that mission."

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced his resignation last month due to health issues. He said his health has deteriorated since mid-July and he didn't want the issue to affect government.

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Suga said the fact he doesn't belong to any political faction was an advantage for him during the election, but some worry a lack of a power base could become a hindrance as he tries to govern.

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"Because a leader with a relatively weak power base would have only gotten to this position because of the votes supplied by the powerful [factions], he will do their bidding, knowing that if he doesn't, they'll withdraw their support and he'll be replaced," Amy Catalinac, assistant professor of politics at New York University, said.

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