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Japan PM Shinzo Abe quits over health concerns

Date Added: August 28, 2020 06:50:12 PM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Regional: Japan
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said he will resign over his declining health, telling a shocked country that the return of a chronic bowel condition had left him unable to steer it through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Poor health should not influence political decisions, and as long as I’m unable to meet the expectations of the Japanese people, I have decided that I cannot stay on as prime minister and will step down,” Abe told a televised news conference on Friday.

“In politics, the most important thing is to produce results. For seven years and eight months, I have done my best to get results, but I have been struggling with my illness and I need treatment.”

Abe’s deputy, the gaffe-prone finance minister, Taro Aso, could take over as acting prime minister, but his resignation will spark a leadership race in the governing Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

He declined to comment on who might replace him as LDP leader and prime minister.

Abe said he had been able to manage his illness – which has afflicted him since his teens – until June, when a regular medical check-up revealed signs that it had returned, adding that his health had deteriorated since the middle of last month.

“I have lost a lot of my energy and strength,” he said, before apologising for leaving office before resolving the cold war abductions of Japanese citizens by North Koreans.

Abe said he would start taking a new drug, but acknowledged that there was no guarantee that it would work. “I don’t want to create a sudden vacancy because of my illness, which is why I decided to resign after I received the results of my latest tests this week.”

“The greatest challenge facing us now is our response to the coronavirus – there should be no disruption to that.”

Officials from the LDP had earlier attempted to quash speculation that Abe may be unable to serve out his term, which was due to end in September 2021, as rumours swirled around the state of his health.

One of Abe’s hospital visits lasted almost eight hours, fuelling speculation that he was again suffering from ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that was partly responsible for forcing him out of office after just a year during his previous term as prime minister in 2007.

Abe made his most recent hospital visit on the same day he became Japan’s longest-serving leader, breaking the record for consecutive days in office set by his great uncle, Eisaku Sato, half a century ago.

LDP allies insisted this week that Abe would carry on until his term as party president – and as prime minister – ends in September 2021.

The government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said he met Abe twice a day and had not noticed anything that indicated he was in poor health. “It’s premature to talk about ‘post-Abe’, as he still has over a year left in his term,” Suga said this week.

Akira Amari, a senior party official and close ally, said Abe appeared much healthier than the last time he saw him in mid-August. Abe was “probably exhausted mentally”, Amari said in an interview with Reuters, adding that his “voice was stronger and the colour had returned to his skin” when he appeared on TV on Monday.

When he became prime minister for a second time in late 2012, Abe said he was able to control symptoms with drugs that had not been available during his first period in office.