TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at an extraordinary meeting of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) executives on Friday that he decided not to run in the upcoming leadership election for the ruling LDP, effectively giving up the premiership.
Saying that it would be impossible to run the LDP’s election while doing his work, Suga told reporters that he wanted to focus on the COVID-19 measures during his remaining time, adding that he would explain his decision probably next week at a press conference.
“I thought I should choose to either campaign for the election or concentrate on the anti-COVID-19 measures as I can’t handle both enormously energy-consuming tasks. So I decided to focus on COVID-19 to prevent a further spread of the virus,” he said.
He also said that since taking office last September he had put full efforts to solve problems that Japan faced, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
The LDP is slated to start campaigning on Sept. 17 and hold its presidential election on Sept. 29, with Suga not to run in the race, party officials said.
Suga’s successor needs to be chosen before a general election ahead of the expiration of the House of Representatives members’ term in October. Suga on Wednesday ruled out dissolving the House of Representatives for a general election anytime soon, given the current severe COVID-19 situation, and said that the LDP leadership election scheduled for Sept. 29 will not be postponed.
The current term of the lower house members will run through Oct. 21, but the prime minister has the power to dissolve the chamber early and call a general election.
Some LDP lawmakers had thought that Suga would dissolve the lower house in mid-September in order to win at least a modest general election victory before facing off against rivals including former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in the party leadership race.
“I have said COVID-19 countermeasures are my top priority, and that has not changed at all. Considering the severity of the current situation, dissolving (the House of Representatives) isn’t possible right now,” Suga said.
Japan is witnessing its largest wave of infection cases, with hospitals struggling to handle a surge in patients with severe symptoms amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.