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Japan PM Shinzo Abe announces plan to step down, citing health issues: Report

The development comes after Abe’s visit to a Tokyo hospital twice over the past two weeks, fuelling speculation that his health has deteriorated.

SNS | New Delhi |

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has planned to step down “because of health issues”, according to a state-media report on Friday.

Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference later in the day to provide further details of his decision, NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster reported.

The development comes after Abe’s visit to a Tokyo hospital twice over the past two weeks, fuelling speculation that his health has deteriorated.

This is the second time that the Prime Minister will step down from his post over a medical issue.

The resignation would be a bitterly familiar scenario for Abe, who stepped down just one year into his first term, in 2007, over health problems.

He was subsequently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which he said upon return to office in 2012 was under control with the help of new medication.

The resignation, if confirmed, will come despite the insistence of government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Friday morning that Abe remained in good health.

During a regular news conference, Suga told reporters, “I see him every day and feel that there is no change in his condition”.

The prime minister has also seen his signature “Abenomics” economic policy come under increasing strain, with the country already slumping into recession even before the coronavirus crisis hit.

Earlier, experts had said there was little appetite within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for Abe to depart early, especially as there is no consensus yet on his successor.

An abrupt resignation throws open various possibilities, including that either deputy prime minister Taro Aso — who also serves as finance minister — or chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga would assume the office in a caretaker capacity.

A later election within the party would then confirm a full-time successor.

Both Aso and Suga, as well as several former and current cabinet members have been suggested as potential successors.

(With inputs from agency)