Japan PM Suga to step down this month
Published: 11:27 AM, 3 September 2021 Updated: 03:07 PM, 3 September 2021
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga; Photo: Collected
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday he will not run for re-election as party leader this month, effectively ending his tenure after just one year.
“Suga announced his intention to resign at an emergency meeting of senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” Toshihiro Nikai, LDP secretary general, told reporters.
“Today at the executive meeting, (party) President Suga said he wants to focus his efforts on anti-coronavirus measures and will not run in the leadership election,” Nikai said.
“Honestly, I’m surprised. It’s truly regrettable. He did his best but after careful consideration, he made this decision,” he added.
The shocking announcement came after Suga’s approval ratings were at an all-time low with 31.8 percent over his government’s handling of the response to the pandemic, according to a poll by the Kyodo news agency last month.
But it was a decision that had not been foreshadowed, with Suga dropping no hints of his plans to leave office after just a single year in power and before contesting his first general election.
He came to office last year, stepping into the post left empty when Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe resigned for health reasons.
Suga had been widely expected to seek reelection as LDP leader in a vote set for September 29, with most speculation surrounding only how soon after that he would call a general election. The election must be called by late October, and the LDP is expected to remain in power but possibly lose seats.
Suga has been battered by his government’s response to the pandemic, with Japan struggling through a record 5th wave of the virus after a slow start to its vaccine program. Japan has recorded nearly 16,000 deaths during the pandemic.
The 72-year-old Suga’s election as prime minister last year capped a lengthy political career.
Before taking the top office he served in the prominent role of chief cabinet secretary, and he had earned a fearsome reputation for wielding his power to control Japan’s sprawling and powerful bureaucracy. – AFP