Abe confirmed his plans to resign at a press conference held on Friday afternoon, local time, according to multiple media reports. Only days ago, Abe became Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, with over seven years of tenure in his second stint. He previously served a one-year term, which ended in 2007 due to his inflammatory bowel disease.
Public broadcaster NHK reports that Abe has visited a hospital twice in the past two weeks. He is 65, and his current term of office would have run until September 2021. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to announce a replacement.
Abe’s time at the top included the aftermath of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the enthronement of a new Emperor, and an attempt at restarting the Japanese economy through reflation, government spending and structural reform.
But the so-called Abenomics policy only had limited success in halting the stagnation caused by Japan’s aging and shrinking population. And Abe failed to overturn the restrictions that make Japan officially a pacifist country.
He was popular enough to achieve re-election in 2017, but has since tumbled in opinion polls with the public very critical of his measures to control the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.
Abe will also miss out on the Olympic Games, which should have been held this month in Tokyo, but which were postponed due to the virus outbreak. The Games are now rescheduled to be held a year from now, but there is growing doubt that they will go ahead in full or on time.