Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a press conference on Friday, August 28, that he would be retiring from his post due to a longstanding battle with chronic illness.
Abe has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. The illness prompted him to resign as prime minister in 2007, but he returned to the post in 2012.
During his press conference in Tokyo on Friday, Abe said that he recently discovered that he needs to expand the treatment of his chronic illness, which led him to the decision to step down.
“I decided to resign due to the results that came in from the physical check-up I had at the hospital over the last two weeks,” he said.
Abe also discussed the country’s COVID-19 response and budget.
“I am sorry to our nation for having to step down,” he said. “Until the next prime minister is elected, I will fulfill my current duties.”
Abe is the president of the Liberal Democratic Party. Abe will likely remain prime minister until his ruling party selects a new leader.
LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told local media earlier on Friday that cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga may be considered to succeed Abe, along with LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba.
National broadcaster NHK reported earlier on Friday that Abe was leaning towards resigning from his position.
At 2 p.m. on Friday, Abe was seen at a meeting in the LDP headquarters for over 10 minutes with Toshihiro and others, according to Asahi Shimbun.
On Monday, August 24, Abe broke the record for the longest-serving Prime Minister in Japan, serving 2,799 days consecutively in office.
Also on Monday, Abe visited Keio University's hospital for the second time in a week for a health check-up.
Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, served as prime minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960.
Japanese Netizens expressed mixed reactions to Abe’s retirement, though many were relieved that he was prioritizing his health.
“Prime Minister Abe, thank you for all the work you have done,” one Twitter user wrote in Japanese. “Thank you for guiding and supporting Japan. I hope you now have the time to focus on your treatment and I am praying that you can recover as early as possible.”
“Good job and thank you for your work Prime Minister Abe!” another user wrote in Japanese. “I am honored to be able to spend time with you in the same generation.”
World leaders also expressed support for Abe’s decision.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison commended Abe’s “leadership, wisdom, generosity, and vision.”