The Japanese parliament has elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister, and the former cabinet secretary is expected to adhere closely to the policies championed by Shinzo Abe during his record-breaking tenure.
Mr Suga, 71, took an easy victory on Wednesday, taking 314 votes from 462 valid ballots in the lower house of parliament, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has an impressive majority.
He bowed deeply when politicians applauded the announcement, but made no immediate comment.
“According to the results, our house has decided to name Yoshihide Suga Prime Minister,” House of Commons speaker Tadamori Oshima announced after the votes were counted.
Mr Suga is expected to announce his cabinet later on Wednesday, according to local media he will retain some ministers from Mr Abe’s last government.
Mr. Suga, who was elected leader of the LDP on Monday, is seen as a continuity candidate and has said his run was inspired by the desire to continue Mr. Abe’s policies.
Mr Abe, who resigned earlier Wednesday with his cabinet, will end his record number in office with another year in his mandate.
He was forced out because of a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disease that has plagued him for a long time.
Mr Suga has spent decades in politics, most recently as a cabinet secretary, where he was known for pushing government policy through a sometimes stubborn bureaucracy.
He was also the face of the government and stubbornly defended its policy as a spokesman, including in sometimes fierce exchanges with journalists.
‘This is my mission’
Mr. Suga’s upbringing as the son of a strawberry farmer, father and teacher sets him apart from the many blue-blooded political elites in his party and the Japanese political scene.
But while he has championed a number of measures designed to help rural areas, such as his hometown in Akita in northern Japan, his political views remain somewhat of a mystery.
He is seen as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign he spoke more about the need to break down administrative hurdles – the so-called bureaucratic silos – than about any major guiding principles.
He will face a series of tough challenges, including an economy that was already in recession before the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Suga has said getting the economy going will be a top priority, along with containment of the virus – essential if the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics kicks off in July 2021 as scheduled.
“In order to overcome the crisis and give the Japanese people a sense of relief, we must succeed in what Prime Minister Abe has implemented,” Suga said after being elected LDP leader on Monday.
Mr Suga’s cabinet is expected to bring few surprises, with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso expected to keep their jobs.
Defense Secretary Taro Kono is tipped to be replaced by Abe’s brother Nobuo Kishi, who was adopted by his uncle as a child and bears his last name.
Mr Kono is said to be minister in charge of administrative reform, a portfolio Mr Suga considers particularly important.