The Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, announced this Friday (3) that he will not seek re-election and will step down after a year in office.
Suga announced his decision during an emergency meeting of Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) leaders, said Toshihiro Nikai, the party’s general secretary.
“Today (Friday) at the executive meeting, (party) president Suga said he wants to focus his efforts on measures against the coronavirus and will not contest the election of the party leader,” Nikai said. “Honestly, it surprises me. It’s very unfortunate. He did his best but after careful consideration he made his decision,” he added.
Suga, 72, who succeeded Shinzo Abe – he resigned in September for health reasons – was expected to seek re-election as leader of the LDP, in a vote scheduled for 29 September. General elections are expected to be called by the end of October, and the LDP is expected to remain in power.
The announcement came at a time when government approval ratings for dealing with the pandemic are at their lowest.
A survey by Kyodo news agency in August revealed that his government has only 31.8% support.
Pandemic management has hit the Suga government’s image as Japan tackles its fifth wave of virus infections by stepping up its vaccination campaign, which started slowly.