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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Resigns Because of Illness

“I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people. I have decided to step down from my post”, said 65-year-old Shinzo Abe, the longest running PM in Japanese history and the third to hold this post from his family.

He had suffered from ulcerative colitis since his teenage years, which is a painful chronic inflammatory bowel disease. This disease even caused his resignation as PM in 2007, but he had it under control until recently with the help of drugs developed after his resignation. 

Shinzo Abe apologised for being unable to reach the natural end of his designation, which is September, 2021. 

A local weekly, in an unconfirmed report,  claims Shinzo Abe coughed up blood on 16th July. He also visited the hospital, only to return to work on 19th August after a series of check-ups, which was one of his two routine check ups in a year. He told reporters that he was ready to work and take up the responsibility of a Prime Minister. 

Then came the two hospital visits in a row, around 24th August. People began to doubt his health and competence but were assured time and time again, including in a statement given to Reuters by one of his aides, prompting the thought that this was a very spontaneous and abrupt move. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "I see the prime minister every day, and I think he has no [health] problems at all, as he has been carrying out his duties smoothly". Officials, including the Chief Cabinet Secretary, claimed that he was just fatigued from overworking himself over coronavirus issues.

In 2-3 weeks, there will be a vote within his party- the Liberal-Democratic Party (LPD), triggering a vote within them for a replacement and a competition for the same. The elected leader would then have to gain a majority vote of the parliament, after which he/she will hold power until September 2021.

The largest slump in Japan's economy will be the new President's focus area along with COVID-19. It is the citizens' fondest hope that the new President will uphold the promise of introducing a vaccine by mid-2021 and will continue to maintain, if not expand, the testing capabilities of labs i.e. 200,000 tests per day as Japan is set to allow foreigners residence there from the beginning of next month.

Coming to the most important question: Who was Shinzo Abe?

He was the Chief of the LPD and a conservative leader who came from an eminent political family; his uncle and great-uncle held his post from 1957 to 1960 and 1964 to 1972 respectively. He has held office from 2006–07 as well as 2012– current, making him the longest running Prime Minister. He was also the youngest Prime Minister in Japan's history.

Shinzo Abe aimed to shore up the country’s pension and health-insurance systems. Although, he garnered criticism for his slow response to the mishandling of pension records belonging to millions of citizens.

Shinzo Abe has launched multiple brave, yet flawed economic policies under “Abenomics”, which is named after him. The three aspects of this initiative were monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms to ensure long-term sustainable growth. Getting consumers and businesses to spend more was meant to be key to the success of Abenomics. It also had a “branch” called “womenomics” that aimed to make an impact of women's presence in the workforce. One of the biggest goals of abenomics, however, was to increase the value of the yen in relation to the USD.

Shinzo Abe also amended the constitution to allow troops to fight in foreign countries for the first time since WWII in 2014. A year later, Japan adopted laws scrapping a ban on exercising the right of collective self-defence or defending a friendly country under attack.

In 2019, the economy was expected to shrink by 2.5% during October-December and rebound just 0.6% the following quarter - only narrowly avoiding a recession until the coronavirus hit. He was then hit by the storm of sharp downfall of Japan's economy. His popularity was now the lowest and most threatened it had been since his resignation.

Overall, Shinzo Abe leaves behind a legacy of stability and a strong centralised power base; he achieved many of his goals, even though he leaves a sour taste in the citizens' lives.

This is another change of leadership among the various other resignations of governments, which almost seems like a game of political tag. Nonetheless, it is a hope that changes in the near future would help make Japan a better place- a better place Japanese citizens dreamt of with the leadership they truly deserve.   

Reporter- Katyayani Nath

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