Yoshihide Suga: Japan’s prime minister won’t run for management elections, successfully giving up the put up of prime minister

Suga took the lead less than a year ago after his predecessor Shinzo Abe stepped down for health reasons last September.

His decision not to take part in the LDP leadership election on Jan.

“Today at the board meeting, Prime Minister Suga said he would not run the party chairman elections because he wanted to focus on Covid-19 measures,” LDP General Secretary Toshihiro Nikai told reporters on Friday.

The winner of the LDP leadership election is widely expected as prime minister due to the party’s majority in the lower house. A federal election is to take place this year.

The 72-year-old announced this at an extraordinary board meeting in the party headquarters on Friday after 11.30 a.m. local time, reported the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Suga, who was seen as a successful political actor with a reputation for getting things done, was elected LDP leader in September 2020 with around 70% of the vote.

His appointment was widely viewed as an effort within the ruling party to foster an image of stability and continuity between Suga and outgoing leader Abe. The two men had worked closely together during Abe’s nearly eight-year tenure, with Suga holding the position of chief cabinet secretary in Abe’s government.

However, Suga could not completely step out of the shadow of his predecessor. His handling of the pandemic, in particular, has met with widespread criticism, with opponents denouncing his government’s slow and indecisive response.

In December last year, Suga rejected the need for a state of emergency to declare one for Tokyo and several other prefectures next month. Previously, his government promoted domestic consumption with a much maligned “Go To” campaign that gave Japanese citizens huge discounts on travel and home dining. Experts have pointed to the campaign, which finally ended in December, as a likely driver behind the spread of the virus in Japan.

Suga’s decision to move the Olympics forward despite warnings from health officials – including the country’s leading coronavirus advisor – was also largely unpopular, as polls showed that a majority of the public were opposed to holding a major sporting event during the pandemic.

Although the scaled-down Olympic Games went without major incidents, Covid-19 cases rose to record levels this summer.

Numerous states of emergency, including Tokyo, have had a negative impact on businesses due to mounting frustration over the apparent lack of a clear path out of the pandemic. Japan’s vaccine campaign is lagging behind other industrialized nations and is apparently being held back by bureaucracy and logistical hurdles.

This is a landmark story, more to come.

CNN’s Selina Wang contributed to this report.

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