Largest faction of Japan's ruling party backs Suga in leadership race: NHK

TOKYO (Reuters) – The largest faction of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has backed Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to become the party’s leader, giving him overwhelming support among its top brass to become the next prime minister, broadcaster NHK reported.

The leader of the LDP will almost certainly become prime minister because of its majority in the lower house of parliament, replacing Shinzo Abe, who said on Friday he was stepping down for health reasons.

The LDP will hold its leadership vote on Sept. 14.

Suga has not announced his candidacy for leader but has indicated privately that he intends to run, a source told Reuters. The LDP is due to hold a meeting on Tuesday to decide on details of the election process.

The reported backing of the LDP’s biggest Hosoda faction for Suga follows media reports of support from the powerful faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso. LDP heavyweight and secretary general Toshihiro Nikai is also supporting Suga.

A longtime lieutenant of Abe, Suga’s position contrasts to that of likely rival Shigeru Ishiba, an ex-defence minister more popular with voters but lacking strong backing in the party hierarchy.

Suga will make a formal announcement to run at a news conference on Wednesday evening, Jiji news agency said.

Nippon TV reported that Suga would promise to carry on the “Abenomics” policy of reviving the world’s third-largest economy, and continue the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasising both containment measures and efforts to generate economic activity.

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