Tue, October 26, 2021


Suga bows out of LDP leadership race

Japans Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday that he will not seek reelection as president of the Liberal Democratic Party.

During an extraordinary meeting of LDP executives, Suga, who currently serves as the ruling party’s president, expressed his intention not to run in the Sept. 29 party leadership election, for which official campaigning will kick off on Sept. 17. With Suga’s decision, his Cabinet is set to end a little over a year after it was launched on Sept. 16 last year.

Suga had repeatedly said he would seek reelection for the LDP presidency. However, he apparently came to think it would be difficult to win the election after his government’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and his abrupt plan to reshuffle LDP executives sparked criticism among party members.

With Suga’s exit, the upcoming LDP election will now be held in a different political landscape.

“Once the official campaigning for the presidential election starts, enormous energy will be needed when I consider measures against the coronavirus and election activities. Both matters can’t be handled at the same time,” Suga told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday afternoon. “I should choose one, and I want to commit myself to fulfilling [my duty as the prime minister] to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Suga plans to hold a press conference next week to explain his reasons for not running in the election. He will not carry out a reshuffle of LDP executives, which had been planned for Monday.

Fumio Kishida, a former chairperson of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, has announced his plan to run in the LDP presidential election, which will be held as Suga’s term as party president is set to expire at the end of September. Kishida has called for LDP reform, garnering support from party members. As Suga was increasingly viewed as unlikely to win, he came up with a plan to replace LDP executives, including Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.

However, such an unusual reshuffle just before the presidential election was met with criticism from LDP members, with some saying that Suga’s move was intended merely to “prolong his life” as prime minister and LDP president.

Regarding the next House of Representatives election, Suga had remained undecided on whether to dissolve the lower house or hold the election when the term for the chamber’s members expires, an option that does not involve Diet dissolution. Such circumstances appear to be behind Suga’s decision to step down as prime minister when his term for the LDP presidency expires.

In September last year, Suga overwhelmingly defeated Kishida and Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary general, in a presidential race to choose the successor to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down from the post due to the worsening of his chronic disease. Suga’s Cabinet initially saw high approval ratings, but its response to the pandemic drew criticism, dragging the ratings down.

The LDP then suffered a series of losses in major national and local elections. In August, Hachiro Okonogi, a former chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission who was backed by Suga, lost to a candidate supported by opposition parties in the Yokohama mayoral election. LDP members were increasingly concerned that the party would not be able to win the lower house election under the leadership of Suga.

The LDP presidential election will be held as currently scheduled. In addition to Kishida, former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi has also expressed her desire to seek the party presidency.

“I will state my intentions again after confirming the current situation, but my intention regarding the presidential election has remained unchanged,” Kishida said.

On Friday morning, the LDP held a meeting of its Party Presidential Election Administration Committee, which is chaired by Takeshi Noda, a former internal affairs minister, at the party’s headquarters. The committee decided to not allow election candidates to canvass in regional areas in an official party capacity.

A newly elected LDP president will decide the schedule for the lower house election. As the new leader needs to be nominated as prime minister in the Diet and form a cabinet after the LDP presidential race, the lower house election is expected to be held after the term of the chamber’s members expires on Oct. 21.

Published : September 04, 2021