Former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's right-hand man Yoshihide Suga has been elected leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) - a result that should see his election as the country's next prime minister. Suga, 71, is expected to remain prime minister until the next national elections scheduled for September 2021.

A strawberry farmer's son who worked his way through school, Suga tried doubly hard to achieve political standing in a system that values connections and family lineage. His rise to the top, however, saw him develop a reputation as a successful political operator that Abe relied on to get things done. Suga has earned a reputation for efficiency.

He was the dark horse in a race where 10 people sought to replace Abe. Touted as most likely to succeed were former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida and current Minister of Defense Taro Kono. Ishiba and Kishida were Suga's opponents in Monday's election.

Suga's close friendship with Abe and his support for Abenomics was enough to convince LDP members to elect him leader with 377 of 534 votes from politicians and regional representatives.

Political analysts expect Suga to be an "Abe substitute" or an "Abe 2.0" and likely to continue the former prime minister's policies. Suga is currently chief cabinet secretary.

"Shinzo Abe and the other party bosses picked and joined the bandwagon for Suga precisely because he was the best 'continuity' candidate - someone who they think might continue the Abe government without Abe," Tokyo's Sophia University's dean and political science professor Koichi Nakano told the BBC.

Suga said his first priority as prime minister would be to get a grip on the COVID-19 pandemic. Abe was blamed for a number of missteps that led to large numbers of Japan's citizens being infected. He was also blamed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics fiasco that saw him allegedly play down the severity of the pandemic in Japan in hopes the Olympics would continue on schedule.

During the election Suga promised to expand COVID-19 testing and obtain vaccines for Japan by the first half of 2021.

He promised to increase the minimum wage, promote agricultural changes and boost the badly affected tourism industry. Suga will have his hands full trying to dig the ailing economy from its worst downturn.