Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose resignation announcement stunned the country, has been taken to hospital suffering from extreme fatigue.
Yesterday he told reporters he was standing down over a stalemate in parliament but senior officials have said health concerns were also a factor.
Abe’s year in office has been marked by scandals involving cabinet members, and a disastrous election defeat in July.
That has hampered his Liberal Democrats’ efforts to push through a bill on supporting US-led anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the question of who will succeed Abe hangs over the party.
LDP Secretary-General Taro Aso is seen by many as the frontrunner.
But he could be undermined by his closeness to the outgoing leader, and a record of gaffes.
Aso has called for early party elections to fill the political vacuum.
Former chief cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, is also considered a possible candidate.
There is also speculation that former finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki might put his name forward.
But whoever takes over will still face a deadlock in parliament.