Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will not run for the leadership of his governing party later this month after just a year in office amid anger over COVID response.
“The battle against the coronavirus takes a vast amount of energy and I don’t feel it is possible to carry on with that and fight the upcoming election for the party leadership,” said Suga in a brief statement to reporters, during which he took no questions.
Mr. Suga had been appointed to the role just a year ago following the resignation of Shinzo Abe.
The shock announcement comes as Mr. Suga’s approval ratings dropped to an all-time low.
Japan, still under a state of emergency is now grappling with its worst-ever Covid wave. The country, which has now seen more than 1.5 million virus cases, has also seen a slow vaccination rollout.
The decision to host the Olympics Games this year despite the worsening pandemic also made the matter worst.
“Today at the executive meeting, [Mr] Suga said he wants to focus his efforts on anti-coronavirus measures and will not run in the leadership election,” said the secretary-general of Mr. Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), according to an AFP report.
“Honestly, I’m surprised. It’s truly regrettable. He did his best but after careful consideration, he made this decision,” he said.
The ruling LDP is due to hold an election on Sept 29 to pick its president. The winner of the leadership election is widely expected to be Japan’s leader as the LDP holds a parliamentary majority.