Amid growing criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Sept. 3 he won’t run for the leadership of the governing party later this month, paving the way for a new prime minister after just a year in office.
Suga told reporters that heading Japan’s pandemic response and campaigning to lead his governing Liberal Democratic Party at the same time divided his energies.
“I have decided not to run for the party leadership elections, as I would like to focus on coronavirus measures,” Suga told reporters who rushed to his office after the news broke.
Suga has faced criticism and nosediving public support over a coronavirus response seen as too slow and limited and for holding the Olympics despite the public’s health concerns. His hope of having the Olympic festivities help turn around his plunging popularity was also dashed.
The Liberal Democrats and their coalition partner have a majority in the Diet, meaning whoever wins the Sept. 29 party vote is virtually guaranteed to become the new prime minister.
The official start of the party campaign is Sept. 17. Candidacy requires factional support largely controlled by party heavyweights, and their choices may not match those favored in public opinion surveys. (AP)