What hap­pens if Ja­pan's Abe is in­ca­pac­i­tated, or re­signs?


Ja­panese PM Shinzo Abe's re­cent vis­its to hospi­tal have raised con­cern whether he will be able to stay on as leader of the world's third­biggest econ­omy un­til the Sept. 2021 end of his term as rul­ing party chief, and hence, premier. Abe plans to hold a news con­fer­ence on his health as soon as this week, do­mes­tic me­dia said on Tues­day. He has been ex­pected to reshuf­fle his cabi­net and top rul­ing party posts next month.

An ex­tra ses­sion of par­lia­ment is likely from Oc­to­ber or later, me­dia said, and an elec­tion for par­lia­ment's pow­er­ful lower house must be held by late Oc­to­ber 2021. Here are the pro­ce­dures to be fol­lowed if Abe is in­ca­pac­i­tated, or if he re­signs. Ar­ti­cle 9 of Ja­pan's cabi­net law says that if a prime min­is­ter is pre­vented from dis­charg­ing his func­tions, or the post is va­cant, a min­is­ter of state he has des­ig­nated in ad­vance will tem­po­rar­ily per­form the role.

In such a sce­nario, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Taro Aso, who dou­bles as fi­nance min­is­ter, is first in line to step in for Abe, fol­lowed by Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga.

The move could be tem­po­rary, for ex­am­ple if Abe is hos­pi­talised but ex­pected to re­sume his du­ties af­ter­wards. The law sets no limit on how long the act­ing prime min­is­ter can stay. In April 2000, af­ter prime min­is­ter Keizo Obuchi suf­fered a stroke and fell into a coma, Mikio

Aoki, who was then the chief cabi­net sec­re­tary, stepped in for a few days un­til a new party leader and premier was cho­sen.

An act­ing prime min­is­ter can­not call a snap elec­tion but can over­see bud­get com­pi­la­tion, con­clude treaties and or­der mo­bil­i­sa­tion of the mil­i­tary. If Abe an­nounces an in­ten­tion to re­sign, that would trig­ger an elec­tion within his Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party (LDP) to re­place him as its pres­i­dent, fol­lowed by a vote in par­lia­ment to elect a new prime min­is­ter.

Abe and his cabi­net would con­tinue to run the gov­ern­ment un­til a new premier is elected, but could not adopt new poli­cies. The win­ner of the party elec­tion would then hold the post un­til the end of Abe's term in Sep­tem­ber 2021.

The new LDP pres­i­dent is vir­tu­ally as­sured the premier­ship, since the party has a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment's lower house. Usu­ally, the party must an­nounce the elec­tion for its leader a month in ad­vance, and its MPs vote along with grass­roots mem­bers. In case of a sud­den res­ig­na­tion, how­ever, an ex­tra­or­di­nary vote has to be called "at the soon­est date pos­si­ble" with par­tic­i­pants nar­rowed to MPs and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the party's lo­cal chap­ters. In 2007, for ex­am­ple, the LDP held a lead­er­ship elec­tion within 11 days of Abe's sud­den res­ig­na­tion, which capped a trou­bled year in of­fice as he bat­tled poor health.

Tokyo Gover­nor Yuriko Koike said on Tues­day that the novel coro­n­avirus sit­u­a­tion in Ja­pan's cap­i­tal is im­prov­ing and she's still in­tent on the city host­ing the Olympics next year. "I think the sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter than be­fore," Koike said in an in­ter­view with Reuters Tele­vi­sion.

"We will do our best to pre­vent coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions here in Ja­pan and also to wel­come the ath­letes from all over the world." Koike said last month that Tokyo could de­clare a state of emer­gency if the coro­n­avirus sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated. Daily cases had soared past 400 a day amid in­creased test­ing. New cases have trended lower in the past week, and were at 187 in Tokyo on Tues­day. Koike said Tokyo has es­tab­lished many con­crete mea­sures to com­bat con­ta­gion, but the ar­rival and dis­tri­bu­tion of ef­fec­tive vac­cines is an "es­sen­tial fac­tor" that still has to be de­ter­mined be­fore the Games can go on.

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