Shinzo Abe has resigned as Japan’s Prime Minister after eight years in government.
In a news conference, the Prime Minister said he didn’t want his illness to lead to mistakes with major policy decisions. He also apologised to citizens from the bottom of his heart for not being able to perform his obligations.
The resignation will trigger a leadership race in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the victor of which must be formally elected in parliament.
Japanese stocks have fallen following the announcement prompted concerns amongst investors that his signature monetary and fiscal policy programme, Abenomics, might cease after he leaves office.
Concerns about his health began after he went to the hospital twice.
Officials from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had attempted to squash speculation that Mr Abe may be unable to serve out the rest of his term, due to end in September 2021.
One of Mr Abe’s hospital visits is known to have lasted approximately eight hours.
The Japanese leader is known to suffer from ulcerative colitis, a lifelong condition.
The severity of his condition was partially responsible for forcing him out of office after just a year during his previous term as prime minister in 2007.
The Prime Minister’s deputy, finance minister Taro Aso, is expected to take over as acting Prime Minister. However, his departure is almost guaranteed to spark a leadership race in the LDP.
The Japanese Prime Minister made his most recent hospital visit on the same day he became Japan’s longest-serving leader and Shinzo Abe broke the record for consecutive days in office set by his great uncle, Eisaku Sato, half a century ago.
A senior LDP member said that Mr Abe’s condition seemed to have flared up again but that he was now on the mend but that he was probably exhausted mentally.
The government’s chief spokesperson, Yoshihide Suga, said he had met Mr Abe twice a day and hadn’t seen anything that showed he was in bad shape.
The media have quoted government sources as saying Mr Abe would consult with doctors again, probably over the phone before he’s due to speak to reporters.
The Japanese Prime Minister is also expected to defend his handling of the coronavirus pandemic amid an apparent second wave of new infections in Tokyo – Mr Abe hasn’t briefed the media on the coronavirus crisis since mid-June.