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Japan’s Yoshihide Suga won’t run in next vote to lead party, paving way for new prime minister


Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference regarding the Covid-19 situation in the country from his official residence in Tokyo on August 17, 2021.

Kimimasa Mayama | AFP | Getty Images

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he won’t run for the leadership of the governing party at the end of this month, paving the way for a new Japanese leader.

Suga told reporters Friday that he will not run in the Sept. 29 leadership race for his governing Liberal Democratic Party, leaving his post after serving only one year.

He says he wants to focus on pandemic measures.

Suga has faced criticism and nosediving support ratings over slow coronavirus measures and holding the Olympics despite the public’s health concerns.

LDP has the majority in Parliament, meaning the new government leader likely will be whoever is elected the party’s leader.

The move is largely a political decision so the LDP can have a fresh leader before national elections later this year. The lower house term ends in late October and elections for the new Parliament must be held by late November.

Suga took office in mid-September a year ago after his predecessor Shinzo Abe resigned due to health problems.

Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer from Japan’s northern prefecture of Akita, enjoyed support ratings as high as 70% early in his tenure because he was a leader from the common people rather than blue-blood political families like Abe.

Suga introduced a series of pragmatic measures including digital transformation and administrative reforms, but his support ratings slid quickly over his virus measures seen as too slow and too small to prevent growing outbreaks. In the latest media surveys, support ratings have declined to around 26%.

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