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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.

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