Japan's Suga to step down as prime minister

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday he does not intend to run for reelection, setting the stage for his replacement after just one year in office.

Hopes were initially high for Suga, who took over after Shinzo Abe resigned last September due to health problems.

Since then, Suga's handling of the global health crisis and a rocky vaccination rollout pulled his approval ratings down below 30%.

Suga said Friday he hoped to focus on battling the pandemic instead.

"While I had the schedule to run (in the election), thinking about COVID measures and election activities needed an enormous amount of energy. In that situation, I could not do both. I needed to choose one."

Suga's comments cap off a rollercoaster week in which he pulled out all the stops to save his job.

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party officials said Suga will finish his term as its president until his successor is chosen in a party-wide election slated for September 29.

The winner of the contest is all but assured of becoming premier because of the LDP's majority in the lower house.

The government has been considering holding the general election on Oct. 17.

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