Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister of Japan, is set to resign after one year in office

Japan’s embattled prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is set to resign after one year in office, reported The Japan Times.

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, per the Times. 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 told reporters, according to Bloomberg.

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, reported Nikkei Asia. It’s the lowest rating for a Japanese leader in nine years, per Nikkei.

Twenty-one out of Japan’s 47 prefectures — including Tokyo and Osaka — are under a state of emergency, reported The Mainichi. 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.

The country 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 US and Europe, reported the Associated Press. Currently, only 46.8% of its population is fully vaccinated, per JHU.

Two frontrunners have emerged in the race for party leader. In a poll conducted by Nikkei Asia between August 27 and 29, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccinations, and Shigeru Ishiba, former secretary-general of the party, were neck and neck in popularity, with Kono edging ahead at 16%, while Ishiba was less than a percentage point behind.

Japan’s former foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, is also in the running, announcing last Thursday that he will stand for the LDP presidential election, according to the Japan Times. According to the Nikkei poll, he was placed third in popularity at 13%.

Suga took over from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September 2020, after Abe stepped down citing poor health, reported the Japan Times.

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.

 

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