For a man who swept to office almost eight years ago vowing to restore Japan’s economic vitality after two decades of malaise, going back to the starting line must be particularly painful for Shinzo Abe.

Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Abe has huge parliamentary majorities and no internal challengers to his command of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Yet despite this security, Abe’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown anything but leadership.

After weeks of speculation and lobbying by prefectural governors, Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency that will hand local governments power to implement virus-containment measures. He had to be dragged to postpone the Olympic Games — a decision announced only after a number of nations said they wouldn’t send teams. Abe looks more like a prisoner of events than someone at the zenith of his power.