PM Yoshihide Suga says he won't run for ruling party leadership contest, setting stage for his replacement after just one year in office.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said he will not run in a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race in September, setting the stage for his replacement after just one year in office.
Suga told media on Friday that he wants to focus on coronavirus measures.
Suga, who took over after Shinzo Abe resigned last September citing ill health, has seen his support ratings sink to below 30 percent as the nation struggles with its worst wave of Covid-19 infections ahead of a general election this year.
The party leader contest is slated for September 29, and the winner is all but assured of being premier because of the LDP's majority in the lower house. The government is considering holding the general election on October 17.
Suga, 72, took office last September with support of about 70 percent but his ratings have sunk to record lows below 30 percent as Japan battles its worst wave of Covid-19 infections and many of his LDP lawmakers fear for their seats.
Japan's Nikkei average futures jumped 2 percent after the reports that Suga would not run in the contest for ruling party chief.
Party officials said Suga would finish his term as its president, meaning he would stay on until his successor is chosen in party-wide election.
Covid response under criticism
Suga was planning to reshuffle his cabinet and party executives, but those plans were no longer valid, two party sources told Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, is competing for the party leader post.
On Thursday, Kishida criticised Suga's coronavirus response and urged a stimulus package to combat the pandemic.
Unlike last year, grassroots LDP members will vote along with its members of parliament, which makes the outcome of the party leader race harder to predict.
Novice MPs, fearful of losing their seats, may be wary of following their elders' orders.
"Honestly, I'm surprised," said LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, who had declared his support for Suga in party leadership contest.
Suga was planning to reshuffle his cabinet and party executives, but those plans were no longer valid, Nikai said.