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Japanese PM poised to resign after bowing out of party vote

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By AP
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo.
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo.   -   Copyright  Kimimasa Mayama/AP
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Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he won’t run for the leadership of the governing party at the end of this month, paving the way for a new Japanese leader.

Suga told reporters Friday that he will not run in the Sept. 29 leadership race for his governing Liberal Democratic Party, leaving his post after serving only one year.

He says he wants to focus on pandemic measures.

Suga has faced criticism and nosediving support ratings over slow coronavirus measures and holding the Olympics despite the public’s health concerns.

His ruling Liberal Democratic Party has the majority in Parliament, meaning the new government leader likely will be whoever is elected the party's leader.

The move is largely a political decision so the LDP can have a fresh leader before national elections later this year. The lower house term ends in late October and elections for the new Parliament must be held by late November.

Suga has faced criticism and nosediving support ratings over slow coronavirus measures and holding the Olympics despite the public’s health concerns.

Suga took office in mid-September a year ago after his predecessor Shinzo Abe resigned due to health problems.

Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer from Japan's northern prefecture of Akita, enjoyed support ratings as high as 70% early in his tenure because he was a leader from the common people rather than blue-blood political families like Abe.

Suga introduced a series of pragmatic measures including digital transformation and administrative reforms, but his support ratings slid quickly over his virus measures seen as too slow and too small to prevent growing outbreaks. In the latest media surveys, support ratings have declined to around 26%.