Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Step Down After Tumultuous Year in Office

Japanese Primm Minister Yoshihide Suga waits to meet International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, in Tokyo Friday, Sept.3, 2021. Suga said Friday he won’t run for leadership of the governing party at the end of this month, paving the way for a new Japanese leader after just a year in office. (Behrouz Mehri/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday that he would not run in the ruling center-right party’s leadership election this month, indicating he would step down after just a year as the country’s leader.

Suga, 72, has struggled with low public approval ratings over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and for pressing ahead with holding the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer over the objections of health experts and much of the public.

In a surprise announcement after a meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party, Suga said he wanted to focus on combating the spread of the coronavirus in Japan, which is experiencing its worst outbreak of the pandemic.

“As I was planning to run for the presidency, when I thought about the coronavirus measures and also campaigning, I realized a great deal of energy would be needed, that I cannot have it both ways and that I must choose one or the other,” he said.

Japan is reporting record numbers of virus cases, averaging almost 20,000 a day. Tokyo, the capital, is in a state of emergency along with 20 of the country’s 47 prefectures.

In July, Suga’s party failed to win a majority in a local election in Tokyo that was seen as a key indicator of voter attitudes. It also lost a mayoral election in Yokohama last month.

Although the Liberal Democrats are expected to prevail in a general election that must be held this fall, several party members had reportedly raised concerns that they could suffer heavy losses in the lower house of Parliament.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Arata Yamamoto and Jennifer Jett

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