By Sami BURGAZ, Editor-at-Large
Amidst the ongoing election preparations in Japan –which are scheduled to be held on September 29, 2021, Yoshihide Suga, prime minister and the current leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced that he would not take part in the party’s elections, signalling the end of his tenure.
This asseveration is significant since the new leader of the party, will certainly be the latest prime minister of Japan given that the LDP holds the majority of the seats in the Japanese Parliament.
Suga in his assertion underlined the fact that while the fight against the pandemic required a great deal of energy, competing for the party leadership at the same time was not possible.
- Following the retirement of then-prime minister Shinzo Abe due to increasing health complications; Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s cabinet secretary, took over as prime minister in 2020.
- In recent days, local media outlets claimed that the prime minister was planning to dissolve the parliament in mid-September and hold general elections on October 17 in order to increase the support he received. However, these allegations were denied by Suga.
- On the other hand, a senior LDP official told Reuters that Suga was planning to sack a party representative while also considering a minor cabinet reshuffle.
- Various sources also suggested that prime minister Suga was in preparation of replacing the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s powerful No. 2 leader, Toshihiro Nikai, ahead of this autumn’s House of Representatives election.
- The approval rating of Yoshihide Suga, who wielded a public support of 74% when he assumed office has plunged below 30%, which is considered as “critical” for prime ministers.
- Suga’s administration has also been criticised for their inability to fight the pandemic. The state of emergency and measures have been extended multiple times in the country, which has recorded 16,000 deaths from COVID-19 so far. Although there has been a slowdown in the spread of the disease recently, the number of young cases and serious infections remain high.
- Proceeding with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics despite the coronavirus pandemic also cost Suga political capital.
Suga is expected to remain in office until the party elections on September 29. According to the constitution, elections must also be held by 28 November in order to determine the new prime minister.
- Fumio Kishida –a former foreign minister under Abe’s administration, has emerged as the early front-runner. Kishida unveiled his campaign platform on Wednesday, focusing on combating the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery.
- Other candidates include Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister; Sanae Takaichi, the only female contender and Taro Kono, the minister of administrative reform.