Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set to resign: reports

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to resign, three Japanese news services reported on Friday, putting an end to a tumultuous year in charge that saw Japan deliver a successful Olympics and a record number of coronavirus cases.

Kyodo News, Nikkei and national broadcaster NHK said Suga would not run for re-election as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in September as he put plans for a cabinet reshuffle on hold.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide SugaCredit:AP

The move will give his successor little more than a month to prepare for an election that is expected to be held by October. Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida is the internal frontrunner. Kishida, 64, has been critical of Suga’s handling of the pandemic and has spent the past fortnight outlining a stimulus package and an alternative vision for the country of 126 million.

The leader of the LDP is widely expected to hold on to the prime ministership in the national election with the ruling party controlling 312 out of 465 seats in the Japanese House of Representatives.

Suga’s expected resignation will extend the Olympics curse of Japanese prime ministers. Japan has hosted four Olympics since 1964, two Summers and two Winters. The sitting prime minister has resigned within a year of each Games either due to declining health, falling popularity or internal disputes.

Suga’s approval ratings had plummeted in recent months as virus cases surged to more than 20,000 a day across Japan.

The Olympics and Paralympics brought some relief to households enduring repeated and largely ineffective states of emergency but the Japanese public did not reward Suga for steering through an athletically successful but financially costly Games.

Last week a Suga’s Cabinet approval rating hit a record-low 31.8 per cent, while 65 per cent of people said they did not want Suga to remain in his post, a Kyodo News survey showed.

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