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Ailing Health Or Economy – Why Is Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Resigning?

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Shinzo Abe – Japan’s PM will step down due to health concerns, local media reported Friday, citing a source from his party. Shinzo Abe, the 65-year-old premier, and head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will announce his resignation at a party meeting starting at 3 p.m. local time, Kyodo News reported.

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Abe has long suffered from chronic illness — ulcerative colitis — which earlier forced him to step down in 2007, only a year after becoming the country’s youngest premier in the postwar era at age 52.

There was widespread speculation about his health in recent weeks as he kept a low profile without holding any press conferences for nearly 50 days between mid-June and early August and had a series of hospital visits. He was also criticized for his government’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, had briefed journalists that Shinzo Abe planned to stay in office. “The prime minister himself has said he would like to work hard again from now on, and I’m seeing him every day,” Mr. Suga said in a news briefing, saying that the prime minister’s health “remains unchanged.”

Shinzo Abe, the grandson of a PM accused of war crimes and the son of a former foreign minister, began his first, yearlong stint as prime minister in 2006. As he resigned in 2007 under a shadow of scandal, he called the debilitating effects of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease. It was not clear if Abe was suffering again from the effects of that illness or had contracted another disease.

During his second stint in office,  Abe withstood a few influence-peddling scandals and rode out numerous elections. In 2015, he pushed through contentious security legislation that allowed Japanese soldiers to engage in overseas combat missions alongside allied forces, as part of “collective self-defense.”

Japan-Parliamentary-Elections

His political power peaked in 2017 when his party won a major victory that gave it, along with its coalition partners, two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. That was the majority needed to push through a constitutional amendment, but Abe never brought that dream to realization due to severe public opposition.

Abe, who was in office when Japan won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, resigned before he could oversee the prestigious Games, which were postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19. By the time he decided to quit, Shinzo Abe had become a loathed leader whose disapproval ratings had climbed to their highest level since he commenced his second term.

The public was disappointed with his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly its effects on the economy, which eradicated what accomplishments he could claim under his economic platform – “Abenomics.”

With Inputs From Anadolu Agency & New York Times

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