ANKARA: Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, on Friday announced his resignation due to health concerns.
“I have decided to step down as prime minister as poor health should not lead to wrong political decisions,” Abe, 65, said in a live address to the nation.
Abe, who is suffering from ulcerative colitis, said he would continue in office until a successor is chosen.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will hold a poll of selected members of the party for the post.
“In politics, the most import thing is to produce results,” said Abe, who leaves a legacy of making Japan the world’s third-largest economy.
His four-year term would normally have ended in 2021.
Abe’s term comes to an end amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, which has battered the country’s economy.
He said his health has deteriorated since mid-July.
“A new drug has to be administered very closely,” he said.
The LDP leader declined to comment on his successor, saying, “I leave it to the party.”
Abe has long suffered from chronic ulcerative colitis, which earlier forced him to step down in 2007, only a year after becoming the country’s youngest premier in the postwar era at age 52.
He took the office again in 2012.
There was widespread speculation about his health in recent weeks as he kept a low profile without holding any press conference for nearly 50 days between mid-June and early August and had a series of hospital visits.
He was also criticized for his government’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.