Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday (24 Aug) set a new record for the longest consecutive term in office but faced growing speculation about his health as he returned to hospital.
Abe, 65, spent more than seven hours at a Tokyo hospital last week during a previously unannounced medical check-up that his aides insisted was routine.
Local media cited sources as saying Abe’s return visit Monday was to receive the results of that check-up, but no further information was provided.
Abe’s health has been the subject of growing speculation, with reports before his check-up that he had been vomiting blood.
The prime minister resigned just a year into his first term in 2007, citing his health among other factors.
He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and spent months undergoing treatment.
Upon his return to power, he said he had overcome the illness.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga has denied Abe is sick, but members of the prime minister’s party have expressed concern about his health.
The return to hospital comes as Abe breaks the record for the longest consecutive term as prime minister.
He was already the country’s longest-serving prime minister, counting his first and second terms in office.
But as of Monday, he has been in power for 2,799 uninterrupted days, breaking the record previously set by his great uncle Eisaku Sato.
The record comes at a difficult time for Abe, who in addition to his possible health woes faces plummeting public support thanks to his handling of the coronavirus.
A poll published Sunday by the Kyodo news agency found the approval rating for his cabinet stands at 36 per cent, the second lowest since he returned to office in 2012.
The survey conducted over the weekend found 58.4 per cent were unhappy with the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
While Japan has seen a comparatively small outbreak — with nearly 62,000 infections and close to 1,200 deaths — Abe has been slammed for his economic response as well as a widely mocked programme to distribute reusable cloth face masks.