Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his resignation over health issues, opening a vacancy for the top job of the world’s third-biggest economy in which he sought to revive growth and bolster its defenses.
“I have decided that I will step down as prime minister, with the belief that 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.
He said he had decided to step down now to avoid a political vacuum as the country copes with its novel coronavirus outbreak.
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart that despite all of the support from the Japanese people, I am leaving the post with one full year left in my term and in the midst of various policies and coronavirus,” Abe said.
Abe decision will trigger a leadership race in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – most likely in two or three weeks – and the winner must be formally elected in parliament. The new party leader will hold the post for the rest of Abe’s term.
Former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida both swiftly expressed interes, media reported. Among others whose names have been floated is Abe’s close aide, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.