Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s decision to withdraw from the Liberal Democratic Party presidential race means that he will be stepping down as leader of the country after just about a year in office.
Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, set the record for the longest tenure as prime minister with nearly eight years in office. But before that, the prime ministership was often described as a “revolving door” because of leaders' short terms.
Looking back over the past two decades, Japan has had a number of prime ministers who lasted only about a year in the role.
- Yoshiro Mori (April 2000-April 2001): He became prime minister after his predecessor, Keizo Obuchi, fell into a coma and later died. As a result of numerous gaffes, his support rate fell to 9% in media polls, forcing him to resign.
- Shinzo Abe (September 2006-September 2007): Although Abe became the longest-serving prime minister in his second period of leadership between 2012 and 2020, his first term ended after he stepped down, citing deteriorating health.
- Yasuo Fukuda (September 2007-September 2008): Following Abe’s resignation, Fukuda — who served as chief Cabinet secretary under Mori and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi — came to power after beating Taro Aso in an LDP presidential election. But Fukuda abruptly resigned, as the ruling coalition was struggling to pass government-sponsored bills in the opposition-controlled Upper House.
- Taro Aso (September 2008-September 2009): Aso, who now doubles as deputy prime minister and finance minister, stepped down after the LDP suffered a historic defeat against the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the 2009 general election.
- Yukio Hatoyama (September 2009-June 2010): Following victory in the 2009 Lower House election, Hatoyama became head of the first government not to be led by the LDP in 15 years. He resigned due to a political funds scandal and his flip-flopping on the relocation of a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture.
- Naoto Kan (June 2010-September 2011): Kan replaced Hatoyama in the DPJ-led government. However, Kan resigned after he was criticized over his handling of the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
- Yoshihiko Noda (September 2011-December 2012): Noda was the last prime minister of the DPJ-led government. He dissolved the Lower House for a snap election in December 2012, only to lose power to an LDP led by Abe.
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