Japanese ruling party leader Yoshihide Suga has been elected as Japan’s new prime minister, following the resignation of Shinzo Abe. Suga will be the oldest prime minister to take office since Kiichi Miyazawa in 1991. Also Read - Japan PM Shinzo Abe, His Cabinet to Resign Today Paving Way For New Leadership

“According to the results, our house has decided to name Yoshihide Suga prime minister,” lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima told parliament after the votes were counted.

71-year-old Suga, long seen as Abe’s right-hand man, was chosen Monday as the new head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, virtually guaranteeing his election as prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the party’s majority.

Suga, a self-made politician and the son of a strawberry grower in the northern prefecture of Akita, has stressed his background in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him in a tweet and wrote, ”Heartiest congratulations to Excellency Yoshihide Suga on the appointment as Prime Minister of Japan@kantei I look forward to jointly taking our Special Strategic and Global Partnership to new heights.”

The road ahead:

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe’s first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. Suga said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

The new prime minister will inherit a range of challenges, including relations with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea, and decision about Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus. He will also have to establish a good relationship with whoever wins the U.S. presidential race.

Notably, Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.

(With Agency inputs)