By Tom Kingsbury | Political Editor
Shinzo Abe, the current and longest serving Japanese Prime Minister, has resigned, citing health reasons and concerns over his ability to act as PM as a result.
Abe has suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager, and though in recent years his condition had seemed to improve, he told the public on August 28 that it had recently worsened, and he did not want it to get in the way of his decision making.
This comes after the Japanese PM had two recent hospital visits in one week. He stated that his disease had made a resurgence in July, and that though he was now receiving a new treatment, it would not allow him time to carry out the responsibilities of his position.
He called it a ‘gut wrenching’ decision, adding:
“I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decision for the people. I have decided to step down from my post.”
Abe also made an apology to the Japanese people for failing to complete his term.
His resignation triggers a vote in his Liberal Democratic Party to elect a new party leader. This will be followed by a parliamentary vote in the new PM, who will hold the position until September 2021.
Asked who he thought should replace him, Abe said it was not his place to say, though a number of individuals are thought to be in the running for the coveted position.
Abe, nicknamed ‘the Prince’ due to his father and grandfather’s prominent government positions, will remain PM until a successor is selected.
In September 2007, he resigned as PM due to his disease, coming back in 2012, stating he had overcome his illness. He went on to become Japan’s longest running PM in this period, winning re-election in 2014 and 2017.
Recently, Abe had come under criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and his policy aims of increasing Japanese military powers had been met with criticism from his own public, as well as Japan’s neighbour states, and Japan has seen increased tensions with North Korea under Abe.
Considered a conservative and nationalist, Abe’s economic policies – given the name ‘Abenomics’ – helped boost Japan’s economy, which had been in recession.
UK PM Boris Johnson praised Abe and thanked him for his years of service:
.@AbeShinzo has achieved great things as PM of Japan – for his country and the world. Under his stewardship the UK-Japan relationship has gone from strength to strength in trade, defence and our cultural links. Thank you for all your years of service and I wish you good health.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 28, 2020
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated:
“I was sorry to learn that Shinzo Abe is stepping down as Prime Minister, and I pay tribute to the great things he has achieved as Japan’s longest serving leader.
“He leaves a strengthened UK-Japanese friendship, which we look forward to continuing in the years ahead. I wish him well for the future.”
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