Japan Prime Minister to Step Down Over COVID-19 Response
Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who is already wildly unpopular throughout the country and within his own party, has faced particular criticism in recent months over his refusal to cancel the 2020 Olympics amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Related Downfall
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced Friday that he is steppping down and will not contest his party’s leadership race on Sept. 30.
The decision comes as his ratings continue to fall below 30% and amid the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which many view as lacking.
Japan has struggled with consistent record-high case counts and daily averages in recent months. The rising cases have been attributed to several factors, though many locals have specifically blamed the 2020 Olympic Games, which the vast majority of the population wanted canceled.
On June 27, one month before the games began, daily new cases for that week averaged 1,482. Then, when the Olympics formally began, they averaged just above 5,000. Cases peaked just a month after the games started and two weeks after they ended, which coincides with the two-week period needed for most symptomatic cases to be identified. At that point, on August 25, average daily cases peaked at over 23,000. Since then, cases have slowly fallen but continue to hit nearly 20,000 new cases each day.
It’s unclear whether the games actually caused a spike in cases or if the timing was just a coincidence. Regardless, the perception is still there among the public.
Adding to the frustrations against Suga is that his government took far longer than other nations to approve COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, with widespread vaccinations not being available until shortly before the Olympics. Currently, about 27% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated, far behind other developed nations.
No Clear Solution
In a press conference Friday morning, Suga told outlets that he made the decision after wondering if he could both handle the pandemic and a campaign, saying, “Both require a lot of energy. … So I felt I should focus on measures to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19.”
The decision to step down indicates that senior party leadership lost faith in Suga, who has been in a senior position with the Liberal Democratic Party since 2012 when he was the spokesperson for Abe Shinzo. However, Suga has been unpopular with younger politicians for months. Many even felt they couldn’t mount effective reelection campaigns with Suga as the face of the party.
In the next few weeks, there will likely be a small power struggle within the Liberal Democratic Party, as many old-guard officials are seen as “tainted” for being involved in what citizens view as an inadequate COVID-19 pandemic response. As of Suga’s announcement, there is no clear frontrunner to take his position, and he won’t officially be out of office until the party votes later this month.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Kyodo News) (The Hill)
Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names in our coverage are written as Family Name followed by Given Name.
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.