A longtime aide to outgoing PM Shinzo Abe, Suga is heavily favoured to win the ruling party’s leadership race.
Japan’s next prime minister could call a snap general election shortly after taking office next week, a senior member of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has said, the Reuters news agency reported on Sunday.
“Seeking a public mandate with a new cabinet that is fresh and enjoys high public support is one option on timing,” LDP General Council chief Shunichi Suzuki said on a TV programme, Tokyo-based Kyodo news agency reported.
After forming a cabinet, the new leader could immediately dissolve the lower house and call a snap election, Suzuki said, according to Kyodo.
The LDP will elect a new leader on September 14 to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who abruptly announced his intention to resign on August 28.
The lower house of Parliament is expected to convene on September 16 to choose a new prime minister, which is essentially guaranteed to be the LDP president because of the party’s majority in the chamber.
Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary and longtime loyal supporter, is the frontrunner to win the leadership vote and become the next prime minister.
On Wednesday, the longtime aide to Abe told reporters he was entering the leadership contest to avoid a political vacuum in a time of crisis.
Suga, 71, said his decision came “after some deep thought on what I can do as a politician and a member of Abe’s administration”.
Suga’s main competitors are the former defence minister, Shigeru Ishiba, and the former foreign minister, Fumio Kishida. There are no female contenders in the race, the winner of which will finish the rest of Abe’s term, until September 2021.
The party decided on Tuesday to hold a scaled-back leadership vote that will not include rank-and-file members.
Instead, only its legislators and three representatives from each of the country’s 47 prefectures will vote – an advantage for Suga, who is backed by five of the LDP’s seven factions, according to local media.