TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister on Wednesday, replacing Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man.

Suga was elected leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually ensuring that he would succeed Abe, who resigned earlier in the day due to health problems. Suga, who had served as cabinet secretary in Abe’s government, will present his executive later on Wednesday.

The new Japanese prime minister emphasized his origins, as the son of a farmer and self-made politician, by promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

Suga said that he will continue the unfinished policies of his predecessor and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and recovering an economy rocked by the pandemic.

Before the succession was official, Abe said that as a legislator he will support the Suga government and thanked the population for their understanding and strong support for the next executive.

« I have devoted myself body and soul to economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests every day since we returned to power, » Abe told reporters in his office before his last cabinet meeting. « During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges alongside people, and I’m proud of myself. »

Suga won the backing of the party heavyweights and his supporters at the start of the campaign in the expectation that he will follow the line set by Abe.

The new prime minister has been loyal to Abe from his first stint in office between 2006 and 2007, which ended abruptly with his illness. Later, it helped him regain the position in 2012.

Abe, 65, suffers from ulcerative colitis and his current treatment requires intravenous injections. Last month he said that his condition had improved, but that he decided to quit due to his ongoing treatment and physical weakness.

Suga, who does not belong to any branch of the party and is opposed to factionalism, presents himself as a reformist who will end the interests and the norms that hinder the reforms. In addition, he stated that he will establish a new government agency to accelerate the country’s digital transformation.

Faced with his prowess in domestic politics, Suga has hardly traveled abroad and his diplomatic skills are unknown, although he is expected to follow Abe’s priorities.

The new prime minister will inherit a series of challenges, including relations with China, which continues with its actions in the disputed East China Sea, and the future of the Tokyo Olympics, delayed until next summer by the coronavirus. In addition, you will have to establish a good relationship with the winner of the presidential election in the United States.