With Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announcing today that he will not seek reelection as leader of his party, COVID-19 has now dispatched two Japanese prime ministers in short order.

After presiding over the country’s longest administration in the postwar era, Shinzo Abe abruptly resigned one year ahead of schedule in August 2020. A new bout of illness motivated Abe to step down 13 years after health ended his short first premiership, but a bungled response to the pandemic bedeviled his administration and ultimately redefined his political legacy: modest economic expansion came to an abrupt halt due to a consumption tax increase and the pandemic lockdowns; Abe’s team fumbled the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship as well as the delivery of cash payouts to help the public cope with the economic emergency in the early stages of the pandemic; and important international convenings…

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