The faithful lieutenant has — against initial expectations — taken a major step toward the pinnacle of his political career.

Yoshihide Suga, the chief Cabinet secretary, won by a landslide in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election Monday, becoming the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Suga is expected to take the helm at a critical moment when the country has been hit by a pandemic and economic slump and is grappling with national security issues.

Of 534 votes — 393 LDP lawmakers and 141 party representatives from across the country — Suga won by a wide margin, capturing 377 votes, or 70 percent. Policy Council Chairman Fumio Kishida secured 89 votes, and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba received 68. The LDP has a comfortable majority in the Lower House, essentially guaranteeing that Suga will become the prime minister Wednesday.