Japan's Defence Minister Undecided on Running for Position of Ruling Party Head

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led Japan for eight consecutive years, has said he is stepping down hours after he informed his ruling coalition that he was suffering from health issues.

"I have made a decision to step down from the post of the prime minister", he told a press conference, adding that he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that has plagued him for many years.

The victor of the upcoming election will serve out the rest of Abe's term through September 2021, at which point another vote will be held to determine the LDP leader for the following three years.

Mr. Abe's successor will face a Japanese public that is dissatisfied with the Abe administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, even though the country has held its caseload to fewer than 68,000 infections and its deaths to fewer than 1,300.

"We need to consider what we can do to prevent the economy from falling off a cliff", Suga said at his parliamentary office, where a large photograph of him standing next to US President Donald Trump was on display.

Some in Tokyo were quick to criticise Abe after his resignation was announced.

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Most of the potential successors are seen as unlikely to break significantly with Abe's policies.

The scheme to revive Japan's long-stalled economy - still the world's third biggest, but more than two decades into stagnation - involved vast government spending, massive monetary easing and the cutting of red tape.

Shigeru Ishiba, a 63-year-old hawkish former defense minister and Abe's arch-rival, is a favorite next leader in media surveys, though he is less popular within the ruling party. The party also contested the 2009 elections under his leadership. A decision is expected on Tuesday. The new party leader will hold the post for the rest of Abe's term.

In case of a sudden resignation, however, an extraordinary vote can be called with participants narrowed to MPs and representatives of the party's local chapters. "All best wishes!" he said.

A heavy loss for the LDP followed in upper house elections in July 2007, and in September of that year he resigned due to ulcerative colitis.

The prime minister himself revealed that his condition started to worsen around the middle of the last month, possibly prompting him to consider stepping down. "In terms of economic and fiscal policy, the focus remains very much on reflation", said Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments.

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