It wasn’t too long ago that Yoshihide Suga was an afterthought in the post-Abe sweepstakes.

As recently as late July, the Nikkei Shimbun found that among supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party, only 4 percent supported Suga for Japan’s next prime minister, trailing not only his eventual contenders former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, but also Constitutional Democratic Party leader Yukio Edano.

After more than seven years as the power behind Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was difficult to imagine the dour Suga rising to the top job.