Japan’s Shinzo Abe quits as PM citing poor health

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday announced that he was resigning because of poor health, ending a tenure as the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

Abe has battled ulcerative colitis for years, and two recent hospital visits within a week had raised questions about whether he could stay on in until his term ends in September next year.

“I cannot continue being prime minister if I do not have the confidence that I can carry out the job entrusted to me by the people,” Abe, 65, told a news conference as he announced his decision.

He said he wanted to avoid a political vacuum as Japan copes with the novel coronavirus. It was the second time Abe has resigned as prime minister because of poor health, the first more than a decade ago.

At times during his news conference he choked up and blinked back tears.

Despite the deepening concerns about his health, news of Abe’s resignation sent tremors through Tokyo financial markets. Japan’s main stock market, which has more than doubled under Abe, fell some 2% before recovering, while the yen rose on concerns of a return to deflation.

His sudden departure has triggered a leadership battle in his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the next few weeks.

Abe’s successor apart from inheriting an economy in the worst possible shape since the World War II, she/he will be left to try and ensure next year’s Olympics already delayed for a year by the COVID-19 pandemic will go ahead.