Suga will be confronted with issues Abe failed to address during his long period in office, including Japan’s ageing population, low birthrate and poor record on gender equality.
Suga, who has admitted he lacks diplomatic experience, is widely seen as the Abe continuity candidate, a label he did little to dispel during his leadership bid. His predecessor’s economic policy – a combination of huge government spending, ultra-easy monetary policy and structural reforms – would remain untouched, he said ahead of the vote.
Suga’s landslide victory has fuelled speculation that he could attempt to capitalise on his popularity with a snap election next month to boost his chances of winning a full three-year term when the LDP holds a leadership vote next September.
Taro Aso, the finance minister, was the latest senior LDP figure to suggest a general election was imminent. “The next administration will likely face criticism for being formed without a public mandate,” Aso said in a speech on Sunday, according to the Kyodo news agency.
“If that’s the case, I feel like (the new prime minister] is going to dissolve the lower house.”
Suga has refused to be drawn on the prospect of an early election, telling reporters at the weekend that his priority was striking a balance between preventing fresh Covid-19 outbreaks and encouraging economic activity.