Yoshihide Suga has been prime minister of Japan since September 2020. On Friday, Yoshihide Suga said that he would not seek re-election as head of the governing party, opening the way for a new leader after his historically unpopular tenure.
Suga told members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Friday that he will not run in the party’s upcoming presidential election, paving the way for another prime minister in the country. Suga said he wanted to focus on containing the COVID-19 pandemic instead of running in the election.
“To be honest, I’m surprised. But I believe he came to this decision after thinking about it deeply,” party secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai said.
The prime minister’s approval ratings have been on a downward spiral over his government’s handling of the pandemic. His cabinet’s approval rating fell to 34% in July, falling 9% from the previous month. It’s the lowest rating for a Japanese leader in nine years, according to reports.
Twenty-one out of Japan’s 47 prefectures – including Tokyo and Osaka – are under a state of emergency. The state of emergency is slated to end on September 22, but the newspaper reported it’s likely to be extended as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Japan has recorded a total of 1.5 million COVID-19 cases and over 16,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). It also had a slow start to rolling out vaccinations, starting in mid-February, months after the US and Europe. Currently, only 46.8% of its population is fully vaccinated, JHU data shows.
According to a recent story covered by us –Japan aims for full vaccinations by this fall: Kono | Artifex.News.
Suga, who took over after Shinzo Abe resigned last September, citing ill health. Abe – Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, with an eight-year tenure – the country had gone through six prime ministers in as many years, including Abe’s own troubled first one-year tenure.
“I want to focus on coronavirus response, so I told the LDP executive meeting that I’ve decided not to run in the party leadership race,” Suga told reporters.
“There’s immense energy needed to tackle both coronavirus response and preparation for the leadership race,” he added. “I judged that I cannot juggle both and I should concentrate on either of them.”
There is no term limit for premiership in Japan – the prime minister can stay on as long as he/she is elected leader of the ruling party.
(image credits: Wikimedia Commons)