1NEWS, Japanese Prime Minister (PM) Yoshihide Suga has announced his intention to step down and will not be running for re-election of the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). This means that effectively, Suga will end his term after only one year as PM.
Given, the LDP leader will certainly become PM because the majority seat in the lower house is controlled by the party.
The Secretary General of the LDP, Toshihiro Nikai, conveyed the matter of Suga’s resignation. To journalists. Nikai explained that the announcement was made by Suga on Friday (3/9), while attending an emergency meeting with senior party members.
“Today at an executive meeting, (party) president Suga said he wanted to focus his efforts on anti-coronavirus measures and would not be running for a leadership election.
“Honestly, I was surprised. This is really regrettable. He did his best but after careful consideration, he (finally) made this decision,” Nikai explained.
The surprise announcement came at a time when Suga’s approval rating for Covid-19 control hit its lowest point. In fact, according to a Kyodo news agency poll last month, Suga’s government approval rating has dipped to an all-time low of 31.8 percent.
It is known, at this time, Japan is battling the worst spike in Covid-19 cases ahead of the upcoming October elections. Meanwhile, the LDP will hold a party leadership contest on September 29.
However, according to SCMP to France24, the intention to withdraw from Suga was an unforeseen decision. This was because Suga had not previously given any hints about his plans to leave the office.
Suga took office last year, stepping into the post that was left vacant when former PM Shinzo Abe resigned for health reasons.
Suga is widely expected to run for re-election as LDP leader in a vote set for September 29, with much of the speculation surrounding how soon he will hold a general election.
Elections should be held by the end of October, and the LDP is expected to remain in power although it may lose seats as a result of Suga’s ‘unpopularity’.
Recent reports suggest that Suga is planning to carry out a cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to remedy his unpopularity. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough.
Suga has been hit by his government’s response to the pandemic, including the slow pace of his initial vaccine program. Meanwhile, Japan is battling a record fifth wave of Covid-19.
Currently, large parts of Japan have been under virus restrictions, and such measures have been in place in some areas for most of the year.
However, these efforts have not been able to stop the spike in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant. Despite this, the vaccine program has improved with nearly 43 percent of the population fully inoculated.
Japan has recorded nearly 16,000 deaths during the pandemic. While the total number of infections penetrated 1.5 million cases.
The election of 72-year-old Suga as prime minister last year ended his long political career. Prior to taking the top job, he served as a prominent chief cabinet secretary, and he had earned a fearsome reputation for using his power to control Japan’s vast and powerful bureaucracy.
The son of a strawberry farmer and a school teacher, Suga grew up in rural Akita in northern Japan and went on to college after moving to Tokyo working in a factory. He was elected to his first office in 1987 as a member of the municipal assembly in Yokohama outside Tokyo. , and entered parliament in 1996.