Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to address growing concerns about his health on Friday after making two hospital visits within a week.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials have failed to stifle speculation that Abe may be unable to serve his term, which ends in September 2021, as rumors circulate about his health.
One of his hospital visits lasted nearly eight hours and he is known to suffer from ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that was partly responsible for causing him to quit after only a year during his previous term as Prime Minister in 2007.
Abe made his last visit to the hospital the same day he became Japan’s longest-serving ruler, breaking the record for consecutive days in power set by his great-uncle, Eisaku Sato, a half-year ago. century.
LDP allies insisted this week that Abe would continue until his tenure as party chairman – and prime minister – ends in September 2021.
Chief government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said he met Abe twice a day and had not noticed anything indicating that he was in poor health. “It is premature to talk about ‘post-Abe’ because he still has over a year in office,” Suga said this week.
A senior LDP member told Kyodo that Abe’s condition seemed to have woken up but he was “already on the mend”. The official, who has not been named, added: “I cannot imagine that he will resign. “
Akira Amari, a senior party official and close ally, said Abe appeared to be in much better health than when he last saw him in mid-August. Abe was “probably mentally exhausted,” Amari said in an interview with Reuters, adding that “his voice was louder and the color had returned to his skin” when he appeared on television on Monday.
Media quoted government sources as saying Abe would see doctors again – possibly by phone – on Friday before speaking to reporters at 5 p.m. local time.
He is also expected to defend his handling of the coronavirus pandemic amid an apparent second wave of new infections in Tokyo and other urban centers.
Abe, who has not briefed the media on Covid-19 since mid-June, is reportedly presenting new measures to tackle the pandemic, including a pledge to secure enough vaccines – if there are any – for the the entire population of the country early next year.
The availability of a vaccine is a key factor that could decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic.
Abe, who turns 66 next month, has so far said little publicly about his visits to Keio Teaching Hospital, telling reporters only this week that he wanted to take care of his health and continue his work.
He did not say whether his recent health problems were related to his bowel disease, which has affected him since he was a teenager.
When he became prime minister for the second time at the end of 2012, Abe said he was able to control symptoms with drugs that were not available during his first term in office.