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Suga,Prime Minister of Japan to resign;says he couldn't run for reelection and handle virus response

Picture courtesy: Getty images/BBC

Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga said Friday he will not run for his ruling party's leadership, signalled to end his tenure and throwing open the race for the next prime minister.

Mr Suga had been appointed to the role just a year ago following the resignation of Shinzo Abe.

The shock announcement comes as Mr Suga's approval ratings dropped to an all-time low over his government's handling of the response to the pandemic. And it suggests a possible return to political instability for Japan.

Japan - which is still under a state of emergency - is now grappling with its worst-ever Covid wave. The country, which has now seen more than 1.5 million virus cases, has also seen a slow vaccination rollout. Japan has recorded nearly 16,000 deaths during the pandemic.

The decision to host the Olympics Games this year despite the worsening pandemic also proved to be hugely unpopular.

Suga told reporters that running for election and handling the virus response would require "enormous energy". He added, " I came to the realization that I cannot do both. I had to choose one of them."

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai said he was surprised by Suga's decision not to stand in the September 29 leadership race and it is truly regrettable.

The news of Suga's announcement cheered investors, causing the benchmark Nikkei index to gain 1.70 per cent after the lunch break.

Analysts said investors expected a change in leadership to boos the chances of an economic stimulus package.

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