Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he would not seek re-election as head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party scheduled on September 29. Based on the parliamentary cabinet system, the head of a governing party is elected to become a prime minister in the parliament. Not running for leadership of the governing party means he would step down from the Prime Minister position.
“I have decided not to run for the party leadership elections, as I would like to focus on coronavirus measures,” Suga told reporters on Friday afternoon at his official residence. Once the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party is decided on September 29, he will be elected as a new prime minister at a provisional session of the parliament to be held a day or two later.
While Prime Minister Suga said he would like to focus on dealing with COVID-19, many believe that he is stepping down due to strong distrust in him among the public and the members of his party. The prime minister had been hoping for a scenario of gaining people’s support with the Tokyo Olympics and winning the House of Representatives election, followed by getting re-elected as the leader of the party. However, the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed over the Olympics period, and his approval rating dropped to a historical low since he took office in September last year. In some media surveys, including the Asahi Shimbun’s, his approval rating fell below 30 percent, which is considered in danger.
With the fall of his approval rating, the members of the Liberal Democratic Party who got re-elected three or fewer times expressed strong concern about heading into the House of Representatives election under the leadership of Prime Minister Suga. As the term of office of the members of the House of Representatives comes to an end on October 21, the general election should be held before that.
While the prime minister made proposals to address the situation, such as an early generation election by dismissing the House of Representatives and appointing the new leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party, they were met with a cold shoulder by the members of the party who thought the prime minister was playing tricks to extend his term of office. As both the public and the members of the Liberal Democratic Party have turned away from him, the prime minister had no choice but to resign.