Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Flunks His First 100 Days

TOKYO, Japan—Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga won the hearts of Japan with the story of his upbringing as the son of a poor (not really) strawberry farmer in the cold regions of Japan. But if the Japanese public were giving grades to their leader right now—he would be flunking out. His hubris in flatly rejecting academics who were appointed to Japan’s Science Council has angered a nation in which academic freedom is taken seriously, and then he compounded matters by stubbornly a domestic travel program in the middle of the pandemic.

In his first 100 days, he’s gone from valedictorian to class clown: His approval rates have plummeted from 70 percent to as low as 38 percent and the number of people who don’t support him has surpassed the number of people who did. A rating of 39 percent would be a fail in Japan’s educational system, by the way. How did Suga accomplish this abysmal result and where did he go wrong? The Daily Beast has the report card.

Such a Promising Student

On September 16, in a backdoor deal within Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Power (LDP), Suga became Prime Minister after his predecessor Shinzo Abe, stepped down. Abe was Japan’s longest reigning Prime Minister and for his entire time in power, Suga was the brawn behind Abe’s brain, a ruthless taskmaster and enforcer.

Steve Bannon once called populist and xenophobic Abe “Trump before Trump”, which is a fair characterization. Suga was Abe’s Mitch McConnell. Yet, despite being a humorless control who admittedly enjoys power for its own sake, he took office with high popularity and support rates—almost 70 percent of the Japanese public backed his administration at the start.

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