TOKYO (Dispatches) - In a radical U-turn, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday announced that he would not stand for his party’s leadership, effectively giving up the premiership, after facing severe criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, local media reported.
“I had planned to run, but dealing with both COVID-19 and the election would require an enormous amount of energy. I decided that there was no way to do both, that I had to choose,” Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
“I decided to focus on coronavirus measures,” Kyodo News Agency cited him as saying.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will hold its presidential polls to choose Suga’s successor on September 29. The prime minister is currently also the president of the party, with his term to end on September 30.
Earlier, Suga had said he intended to run for a second term.
Suga rose to party leadership last year after the sudden resignation of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, who stepped down as premier on health grounds.
The elections come at a time when Suga’s public rating is down, largely due to his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has battered the health and financial infrastructure of the world’s third economy.
General elections are also around the corner in Japan as the term of parliament’s lower house ends on October 21.