Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday said he would step down at the end of September.
At an extraordinary board meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Suga said he would not stand again for the post of the party chairman at the end of September, effectively announcing his resignation as prime minister.
The 72-year-old said he would focus on the government’s COVID-19 response in his remaining time in office.
Suga’s term as the party’s leader would end on Sept. 30.
Because of the LDP’s majority in the national parliament, the diet, the party’s leader usually also assumes the office of head of government.
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has already announced his intention to run for the office of party’s head.
Suga had beaten Kishida to the position last year after the then party and government Leader, Shinzo Abe, resigned.
Sixty-four-year-old Kishida was loved in the LDP, but in spite of his experience as a top diplomat, he has yet to be considered a strong candidate for the party’s leadership.
Right-wing conservative Sanae Takaichi, also a Minister in Abe’s cabinet, has equally expressed interest in running for the highest office.
Another former Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, has also been named as a potential successor to Suga.
Kono is currently responsible for the Coronavirus vaccination campaign.
Political observers say the LDP may lose seats in lower house elections next month but likely to hold on to power in coalition with the Komeito Party.
When he succeeded Abe as the Prime Minister a year ago, Suga had an approval rating of around 70 per cent. However, his popularity has waned.
His party had been rocked by nepotism scandals.
In addition, there was a criticism of how Suga handled the Coronavirus pandemic and Japan’s vaccination campaign.
The prime minister also came under fire for insisting that Tokyo Olympics should go ahead in spite of the state of emergency in the Japanese capital owing to rising COVID-19 infection rates.