Japan’s ruling party elected Yoshihide Suga as its new leader on Monday, a preliminary step for him to become in the coming days as Prime Minister, replacing Shinzo Abe, who decided to resign for health reasons.

Suga by 71 years, has been Abe’s right-hand man in the administration that began in 2012. He leads the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) until September 2021 to complete the term that Abe left incomplete due to his resignation, announced on August 28.

The new leader of the PLD obtained 377 out of 535 votes that were at stake, which include those of the 394 legislators of the party and 141 of the local sections of that political group in the 47 prefectures of the country.

In the internal elections of the PLD, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishiba came in second place, with 89 votes, and third place went to Shigeru Ishiba, with 68 of the 534 valid votes cast.

Suga’s victory had been anticipated for several days, taking into account the support received from the different factions of the PLD. In previous discussions, Suga has agreed to follow the policies that Abe bequeathed.

The Diet (Parliament) will hold an extraordinary session between next Wednesday and Friday to appoint the new prime minister, and is expected to ratify Suga because the PLD has a majority in the two legislative chambers.

In a message to the political leaders who elected him, Suga recalled that Shinzo Abe had to resign for health reasons due to chronic ulcerative colitis that he has suffered for decades, but said that it is necessary to continue with his work.

A political vacuum cannot be tolerated amid the spread of the pandemic of coronavirus and the national crisis (…). We must inherit and forge ahead with Prime Minister Abe’s efforts, “Suga said.

Previously, Shinzo Abe congratulated Suga on the election and recalled the times they have worked together in the government.

“I am proud to have been able to fight with all of you for seven years and eight months,” said Abe. “Our fight continues”added the still prime minister of Japan.