Tokyo (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is throwing in the towel after months of criticism over his handling of the corona pandemic.
The 72-year-old surprisingly said on Friday that he would not run in the new election for president of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is slated for later this month. De facto, this also means the end of his term of less than a year as the country’s head of government – due to the LDP’s parliamentary majority, the party leader usually becomes prime minister as well. By November at the latest, Japan will elect a new House of Commons. After Suga’s abrupt fall in the polls, the PLD now hopes to defend its absolute majority in the more powerful of the two chambers of parliament with its coalition partner Komeito with a new party leader.
Suga had been elected by his party as the successor to right-wing conservative Shinzo Abe, who had resigned prematurely for health reasons after a record tenure. Suga ends Abe’s remaining term as party leader, which ends on September 30. With his resignation, Suga now allows for real intra-party competition. Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (64) is seen as a possible successor. He failed the election to succeed Abes Suga. Always reserved and calm, Kishida has his own power group within the party and is appreciated within the party, but despite his experience as a senior diplomat, he has yet to be seen as a strong candidate. So far, it has not generated much enthusiasm among the population either.
The Minister of Defense leads the polls
Former Foreign and Defense Minister Taro Kono, who as Reform Minister is responsible for the vaccination campaign in Japan, is more popular in the polls. After a late start, he made sure that his country now has an extremely rapid vaccination program. Besides Kono, right-wing conservative Sanae Takaichi, who is very close to Abe and who served as interior minister, has also expressed interest in running for the top office. However, he is far behind in the polls. Former party secretary general Shigeru Ishiba is said to be more popular. But he had so far failed with every one of his candidacies for the party leadership.
Suga said that for the remainder of his tenure he will focus on tackling the worst wave of infections yet, which has brought Japan’s healthcare system to the brink of overload. Containment of the pandemic and the election campaign demanded “tremendous energy”, it could not do both. It was precisely his corona policy, which was criticized as too slow and inadequate, the extremely late start of the vaccination program and his stubborn adherence to the Olympic Games amid the pandemic, that caused his investigative values to plummet. about 70 percent at the start. In addition, there were nepotism scandals in the days of his predecessor.
Prices are skyrocketing
News of Suga’s withdrawal hit Japan’s center of political power like a bomb. On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, it caused a sharp rise in prices. Political observers expect the PLD to lose seats in the upcoming elections to the powerful lower house of parliament. However, given the fragmentation of the opposition and the general political apathy among voters, many consider it unlikely that the party will lose a majority in the lower house along with its partner Komeito. However, some political observers fear that Japan may fall back into the pre-Abe era, when Japanese government leaders changed almost every year.
Suga, who for years served his right-wing conservative predecessor Abe as a right-hand man as chief of staff, was initially seen as a guarantor of the country’s continuity and stability. At the same time, he emphasized economic reforms. This included delayed digitization. He also declared the goal of making Japan CO2 neutral by 2050. But his hope that Japan’s success at the Olympics could win back voters’ favor was not met. After some severe defeats in the last regional elections, his national opponents have started to scratch their feet.