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Opposition party leaders lashed out at Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday after he abruptly announced his intention to step down as Japan battles a wave of coronavirus cases.

Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called Suga's decision "irresponsible," underscoring that the resurgence of COVID-19 cases requires a swift response and that no time should be wasted.

The Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Suga, "is not qualified to run the government," Edano told reporters.

Suga said he will not run in the LDP presidential election, scheduled for Sept. 29, backpedaling on his earlier remarks that he would seek re-election.

The announcement set the stage for a new face to become LDP president. Suga's term as LDP head expires on Sept. 30.

Akira Koike, second-in-command of the Japanese Communist Party, said, "It shows that the LDP-Komeito government is at an impasse," in reference to the ruling party's coalition partner.

The Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Suga,
The Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Suga, “is not qualified to run the government,” Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters Friday. | KYODO

Suga became prime minister a year ago following his predecessor Shinzo Abe's abrupt departure for health reasons.

He has seen public support for his Cabinet plummet in opinion polls that highlighted public dissatisfaction with the government's response to the pandemic.

"It's an emergency that the leader responsible for the coronavirus response has announced his intention to resign at a time when (many parts of Japan) are under a state of emergency," said Yuichiro Tamaki, who heads the Democratic Party for the People.

Suga's departure means "he is effectively taking responsibility for the failed response (to the pandemic)," Tamaki said.

The LDP this week rejected calls by the opposition bloc to convene an extraordinary Diet session to deliberate on steps to combat COVID-19 before the ruling party's presidential election.

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