Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will step down, Kyodo news reported on Friday. He would also not run in a ruling party leader race in September, setting the stage for his replacement after just one year in office.
Suga, who took over after Shinzo Abe resigned last September, citing ill health, has seen his support ratings sink to below 30 per cent as the nation struggles with its worst wave of COVID-19 infections ahead of a general election this year.
The party leader contest is slated for Sep 29, and the winner is all but assured of being premier. The government has been considering holding the general election on October 17.
Suga was planning to reshuffle his cabinet and party executives, but those plans were no longer valid, Reuters reported.
Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, is competing for the party leader post.
On Thursday, Kishida criticised Suga’s coronavirus response and urged a stimulus package to combat the pandemic.
Unlike last year, grassroots party members will vote along with its members of parliament, which makes the outcome of the party leader race harder to predict.