Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will resign, amid reportedly tumbling popularity.
Suga had taken over the role after the resignation of Shinzo Abe in August 2020 due to a health problem. As such, he also became President of the Liberal Democratic Party. Now, the New York Times reports that in less than a year, Suga will not seek re-election after his “historically unpopular tenure.”
His popularity reportedly “plunged” over the summer due to how the administration handled the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The New York Times reports that while Suga had been been trying to save his position, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced he would stand for leadership of the party in August.
Kyodo News also reports that other unpopular moves included party lawmakers criticizing alleged moves to stay in power- including sacking Secretary General of the Liberal Democrats Toshihiro Nikai, who had helped him secure the position in 2020.
He also saw a “slew” of defeats by party lawmakers and allies in other elections, and a controversy regarding his son and an aide. In August, Suga’s approval rating was 31.8%; fallen from initially being over 60% when he first took on the role.
The New York Post also note rumors that Suga could have dissolve the Japanese Parliament early to call a general election to save his position, or would reshuffle the cabinet and other leadership positions. However, they propose that it was not a viable path after record-high cases of COVID-19, and hospitals being unable to roll out the vaccine and having to turn patients away.
Nikai told reporters today that Suga would not run in the upcoming leader election, and “wanted to focus on the prevention of the coronavirus.” He was also informed that Suga had withdrawn his plans to reshuffle the executive leadership of the party.
Masahiro Yamaguchi, head of investment research at SMBC Trust Bank, told Kyodo News that the news had a positive effect on the market.
“The market reacted positively for the time being amid high expectations for new COVID-19 countermeasures and economic policies under a different government, although the next LDP leader has yet to be determined.” The Nikkei Stock Average closed at “its highest level since June 16.” Tokyo’s Topix stock index ended at a 30-year high, while Nikkei was “surging” over 2 percent.
Suga will remain in power until September 30th, with campaigning for the new head of the party commencing on the 14th. Suga will also become the 7th Japanese Prime Minister in the 2000s that had resigned just after a year or less.
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