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Japanese Prime Minister To Step Down For 2nd Time Due To Intestinal Disease

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to step down from his post as the nation’s leader owing to the same health issue which forced him to relinquish his role as prime minister during his first stint as leader beginning 2006, he indicated Friday.

The Japanese premier, who became the nation’s longest-serving leader with the most consecutive days in office at 2,799 on Aug. 24 when he revisited a Tokyo hospital for the second time in a week, was quoted on Friday as saying that he needed treatment for chronic ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disease.  Abe was also quoted with regard to his health and his decision to resign that it had become hard to make “sound judgments due to illness.”

Scheduled to give a press conference on the matter later in the day, Abe is believed to have already announced his resignation at a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) meeting earlier in the day. The Japanese leader has been quoted as saying that his resignation is meant to have a limited impact on the ruling party and he will continue in his role until a successor is chosen. This is to avoid a political vacuum at a time when the nation is grappling with curbing the spread of COVID-19 especially in the country’s large urban areas, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kanagawa.  On the matter of potential successors, local media reports have said that ex-Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed his eagerness to replace Abe as prime minister.

Abe on Friday also informed the leader of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, Natsuo Yamaguchi, of his decision to step down.  Yamaguchi was quoted as saying he was surprised at the news of Abe’s plans to resign as it came completely out of the blue.  He said Komeito executives plan to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the unexpected news on Friday.

Rumors about the Japanese premier’s deteriorating health have been swirling and amplified by his two trips to a Tokyo hospital within a week. Abe’s first admission to hospital on Aug. 17 for what was described at the time by as a “health checkup” that lasted more than seven hours stoked concerns about his health.  On Aug. 24, Abe revisited the Keio University Hospital in Tokyo again to receive the results of the checkup and undergo more tests, with the second visit lasting four hours.  This is the second time Abe will step down from the top post due to health issues stemming from intestinal disease.

Abe, 65, during his first tenure as prime minister, which started in late September 2006, abruptly stepped down from his post in September 2007 due to chronic ulcerative colitis. After a landslide victory in the lower house in 2012, he returned to serve as the nation’s premier and his seven-year tenure has made him Japan’s longest-ever serving leader.  Abe, prior to his current health condition, was set to spend one more year at the helm.  Abe’s presidentship of the main ruling LDP was set to run out in September 2021.

Prior to the rumors mounting in public and political spheres, a weekly magazine reported that Abe vomited blood at his office on July 6, sparking initial concerns about the premier’s ill health.

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