October 26, 2020

Yoshihide Suga: The unexpected rise of Japan’s new prime minister

Shinzo Abe was Japan’s prime minister for so long that people around the world came to recognise his face and perhaps even knew how to pronounce his name. So, should we all now be learning how to say Yoshihide Suga? That is a difficult question to answer.

A month ago, there were very few who would have predicted what we are now witnessing. Firstly no one expected Mr Abe to go, certainly not before his beloved Tokyo Olympics. Even fewer would have guessed Mr Suga as his replacement.

The 71-year-old is known in Japan as Mr Abe’s fixer, the backroom guy who gets stuff done.

When asked recently whether he thought of himself as a nice guy, Mr Suga responded: “I am very nice to those who do their job properly.”

His public face is that of the unsmiling and seemingly charmless government spokesman. His nickname among Japanese journalists is the “Iron Wall”, a reference to his refusal to respond to questions he doesn’t like.

 

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