Too soon to talk about post-Abe era, says Japan govt spokesman

One of Abe’s visits to the hospital lasted seven and a half hours. (AP pic)

TOKYO: It is too early to talk about the next political era after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe because his term runs until next year, a top spokesman said on Wednesday, amid worries about Abe’s ability to continue as premier after two hospital visits.

Abe has been to hospital twice in the last two weeks, including one visit of seven and a half hours.

He has not detailed what the visits were for, instead saying he wanted to take care of his health and do his utmost at his job.

Abe plans to hold a news conference on Friday, several sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

He is expected to provide an explanation about his health and talk about the government’s handling of the coronavirus, local media said.

“It’s premature to talk about ‘post-Abe’ as he still has over a year left in his term,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, seen as one of major contenders for Abe’s job should he resign, told a regular news conference.

Abe’s close ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ally, Akira Amari, sought to dispel qualms over Abe’s health on Tuesday, telling Reuters he looked better than in mid-August and would likely fulfil his tenure until September next year.

His remarks were echoed on Wednesday by the Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura who said Abe looked a “bit tired” over the last two weeks, but seemed “very well” on Tuesday and “gave us various instructions in the usual manner”.

“We want him to continue to look after his health and show us his leadership,” Kyodo news quoted Nishimura as saying during a parliamentary committee meeting.

Abe, the country’s longest serving prime minister, has been in the role since 2012.

He resigned abruptly from an earlier term in 2007 because of struggles with ulcerative colitis, a disease he has kept in check with medicine that was not previously available.

Criticised for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and some scandals, Abe has suffered a slide in voter support to one of the lowest levels since returning to office with promises to revive the economy and bolster the defence.