Yoshihide Suga is a longtime lieutenant of Abe.
The possible appointment of Suga as the successor would likely see the continuation of the fiscal and monetary stimulus that defined the Japanese Prime Minister’s nearly eight years in office.
Shinzo Abe is Japan’s longest-serving premier and had to step down from his position due to a worsening chronic illness.
The announcement came on Friday has thus set the stage for a leadership election within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
While some other would-be successors have declared their intention to run, the 71-year-old Suga has said he doesn't want the job.
But such comments have been called into question by an aggressive media push in recent days that put him squarely in the public eye.
"They are really going to try to get Suga to replace Abe and continue the Abe government without Abe," said Sophia University political science professor Koichi Nakano.
In an interview with Reuters this week, Suga stressed the need to spur economic growth over tightening restrictions to contain the virus, pointing to the need to promote tourism.