Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced plans to resign after failing to control the country’s coronavirus surge, with two former foreign ministers seen as leading the pack to take over, weeks before a general election. 

In a surprise announcement, Suga told reporters Friday he couldn’t campaign for re-election as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party this month while battling the virus, ending his premiership almost exactly a year after it started. Whoever becomes the next LDP leader is virtually assured of becoming prime minister due to the party’s dominance in parliament.

“Since I became prime minister a year ago, dealing with coronavirus has been at the centre of my efforts,” Suga, 72, said in a brief statement without taking questions. “Dealing with the virus while campaigning for the election would take a huge amount of energy. I realized I couldn’t do both and I should choose one.”

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