Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has resigned due to ill health, after becoming Japan’s longest-serving PM.
Sky News reports that Mr. Abe has had ulcerative colitis for years – a long-term condition where the bowel becomes inflamed – and said his health had declined around the middle of last month.
He has made two recent hospital visits within a week. These visits have raised questions on his competence on the job until the end of his term as the ruling party leader in September 2021.
In a news conference, the 65-year-old PM said: “I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people. I have decided to step down from my post.
“It is gut-wrenching to have to leave my job before accomplishing my goals.
Mr. Abe’s announcement was shown on a large screen in Tokyo
His departure marks the end of an unusual era of stability that saw the Japanese leader strike up strong ties with President Donald Trump even as Mr. Abe’s ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China.
He succeeded in pulling Japan out of recession. Unfortunately, Japan’s economy has been battered anew by the coronavirus pandemic and Mr. Abe has failed to achieve his cherished goal to formally rewrite the US-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.
The resignation will trigger a leadership race in the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), the winner of which must be formally elected in parliament.
Mr. Abe did not give any hints as to who his successor could be but media reports suggest Shigeru Ishiba, a 63-year-old former defense minister and the PM’s arch-rival, could be the favourite.
The new party leader will hold the post for the rest of the PM’s term.
On Monday, he surpassed a record for the longest consecutive tenure as the premier set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato half a century ago.
Mr. Abe has acknowledged having ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and has said the condition was controlled with treatment.