Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday he will not run for re-election as chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), effectively ending his highly unpopular premiership just a year after taking office.
Suga, whose political fortunes have plummeted as he strives to contain the coronavirus pandemic, made the announcement at a brief press conference in Tokyo.
The move raises the possibility that Japan will return to a similar period of trouble with the premiership that has marked most of these decades .
Suga took over as prime minister last September, when his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, stepped down for health reasons.
The son of this strawberry farmer has deep ties to Japan’s dominant LDP. But he was unable to cope with widespread criticism, both from the public and from within the LDP, of his approach to the pandemic.
Much of the criticism has centered on his decision to go ahead with plans to host the Tokyo Olympics this summer, despite widespread public opposition. Unnaturally after the Olympics began at the end of July, Japan is facing its worst coronavirus outbreak.
The state of emergency imposed to contain the outbreak has had little effect. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to be high by Japanese standards, although the death rate from the virus is relatively low compared to many other developed countries.
According to a recent poll by public broadcaster NHK, about 60 percent of Japanese people are dissatisfied with Suga’s response to the virus. About 57 percent of respondents said the Olympics were not held safely, as the government claimed. Many are disappointed with Japan’s vaccination movement, which has only recently increased. [uh/ab]