Japan’s PM resigns over worsening health

Japan’s longest-serving PM Shinzo Abe announced on Friday he was resigning because of poor health, news agencies reported. “I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people. I have decided to step down from my post,” he told a news conference.

Abe has battled the disease ulcerative colitis for years and two recent hospital visits within a week had fanned questions on whether he could stay in the job until the end of his term as ruling party leader, and hence, premier, in September 2021.

The resignation will trigger a leadership race in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the winner must be formally elected in parliament. The new party leader will hold the post for the rest of Abe’s term. Abe’s resignation also comes amid an uncertain geopolitical environment, including an intensifying confrontation between the US and China and ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Whoever wins the party poll is likely to keep Abe’s reflationary “Abenomics” policies as Japan struggles with the impact of the novel coronavirus, but may have trouble emulating the political longevity that may be Abe’s biggest legacy. On Monday, Abe surpassed a record for longest consecutive tenure as premier set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato half a century ago.

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