Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigns after 7 years in power

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After a record seven years and eight months in power, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday announced his resignation, citing ill-health after a recurrence of ulcerative colitis.

“I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister,” Abe said in a news conference August 28.

Abe addressed his health after two recent hospital visits, saying he was suffering from the same condition that ended his first term in office. “I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people,” he said

The 65-year-old said he wanted to avoid causing problems to the government because of his worsening condition.

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Abe has battled ulcerative colitis for years and two recent hospital visits within a week had fanned questions on whether he could stay in the job until the end of his term as ruling party leader, and hence, premier, in September 2021.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented,” said Abe, bowing deeply.

Governing party officials had said Abe’s health is fine but the hospital visits, one lasting more than seven and a half hours, had fueled rumors about his ability to handle the job with another year before his term expired.

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“A lack of information had created a vacuum that people have been happy to fill with speculation,” Tobias Harris, author of The Iconoclast: Shinzo Abe and the New Japan, a biography of Abe to be published in November, told Al Jazeera.

400,000 people in Japan could die of coronavirus if urgent measures are not taken, experts warn