Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said that he will not stand for reelection as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) this month, signaling his intention to resign after having served for a year as PM.

Suga’s decision against running for LDP chief effectively means his resignation as party leader and prime minister is pending, the Japanese media said. 

“I had planned to run, but dealing with both Covid-19 and the election would require an enormous amount of energy. I decided that there was no way to do both, that I had to choose,” Suga told reporters on Friday. “I decided to focus on coronavirus measures.”

LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai confirmed that Suga wants to focus on fighting the virus, instead of seeking re-election. “To be honest, I’m surprised. But I believe he came to this decision after thinking about it deeply,” Nikai said. 

Kyodo News quoted a party source saying that Suga agreed to serve out the rest of his term as LDP chief until September 30. The new party leader will be chosen on September 29. 

The veteran politician previously denied reports that he had proposed to dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament and call for a snap election this month, effectively postponing the LDP leadership election. 

Suga, 72, became prime minister in September 2020, after Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest continuously serving PM, unexpectedly stepped down from his post, citing health issues. Having been described as a close ally to Abe, Suga pledged to continue his predecessor’s key policies. 

Suga’s cabinet worked under a low approval rating throughout the summer as the country struggled to contain the spread of Covid-19 and hosted the Tokyo 2020 Olympics without spectators at venues and under strict health protocols. Several surveys conducted before the games showed that the public had largely favored postponing or canceling the event. 

Despite Japanese athletes having performed well at the Olympics, which were canceled last year due to the pandemic, the support for Suga’s cabinet sunk to 34% in one poll and below 30% in another one late last month, which was its lowest mark since September 2020, according to the media. 

The PM recently extended the Covid-related state of emergency in Tokyo until September 12 and expanded it to cover 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. 

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