Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday that he will resign due to illness, The New York Times reports.
Abe, 65, said he would step down just four days after he set the record for the longest tenure as the country’s prime minister, a job he’s held for nearly eight years.
Abe took over in 2012 after the country had seen five other prime ministers over the previous five years.
He oversaw Japan’s response to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster and helped rebuild the country’s economy.
He previously served as prime minister between 2006 and 2007.
Abe resigns due to disease:
Abe told reporters on Friday that he is leaving after suffering a relapse of a bowel disease that forced him out of office in 2007.
Abe said that he decided to step down now because the country appears to have gotten its second wave of coronavirus infections under control and because it was time for a new leader who could focus entirely on the pandemic and economic crisis.
“I don’t want to make mistakes in important political decisions” while under treatment, Abe said. “I decided I shouldn’t continue sitting in this seat as long as I cannot respond to the mandate of the people with confidence.”
Abe’s term was set to end next September. His party is expected to name a new leader in the coming “days or weeks.”
Health has been under speculation:
Reporters had speculated about Abe’s health for weeks after he “significantly dialed back his public appearances,” The Times reported. Rumors increased when Abe visited a hospital twice in one week.
Just earlier on Friday, top adviser Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Abe would stay in office.
“The prime minister himself has said he would like to work hard again from now on, and I’m seeing him every day,” he said.
Abe said he decided to resign after going to a hospital on Monday.
“As I’m in the middle of treatment, I judged that this is the only timing that will not create a vacuum of political leadership,” he said.