Shinzo Abe: Japanese Prime Minister announces resignation due to health reasons
Updated: Oct 6
On Monday 24th August, Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister after an eight-year term in office and marking 2799 days as leader. However, the shocking news of his resignation due to an ongoing struggle with Ulcerative Colitis has triggered a new leadership race in the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). The LDP are Japan’s center-right to far-right party, with the Abe faction holding a very right-wing position. The announcement came after Abe had been widely criticised for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while Abe successfully pulled Japan out of the recession and saw the economy through the longest period of growth since 1945, he failed to stabilize the economy during the pandemic.
On Friday, the 63-year old Prime Minister announced that he had been receiving increased treatment for his illness and had begun taking a new medicine, and while this looked promising, Abe decided today that he is not fit to govern the people while struggling to stabilize his own health. Although the resignation seems to come at a time when Japan requires the most stability, especially after the economic blow of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics cancellation, Abe reassured the nation that he had chosen the timing due to the recent decline in COVID-19 cases.
Amidst amending changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution and forging a peace treaty with Russia, it seems apt that Abe would be heartbroken to leave office at such a crucial time, but argued with sincerity that it is best for Japan that they have a reliable Prime Minister to lead the country through a critical time. He even used the term ‘断腸の思い(danchō no omoi)’ in his press conference, which translates to ‘as if ones intestines are torn apart’, meaning it was a very hard decision to make. After months of low opinion polls and criticism from other politicians within his party regarding his coronavirus policies, such as the slow ‘state of emergency’ declaration which came after many had gathered in large crowds throughout Spring, 50% of the population said that they did not approve of the government’s response to the outbreaks. In 2007, Abe resigned after only a year as Prime Minister citing ill-health after his party faced vast election losses and scandals within the cabinet and consequently, many are criticisng Abe’s governing strategy as weak and inadequate to deal with the trials of a modern government.
As a result of Abe’s resignation, a new leader will be chosen from within the LDP and there are already favourites within the cabinet ministers. Taro Aso, Minister of Finance and deputy Prime Minister has always been a central figure of Abe’s government and may be called in as a temporary leader before a re-election. The rumoured favourite amongst the ministers however, is Shigeru Ishiba, a former defence minister and critic of Abe who regularly tops voter polls but is a lot less popular with other LDP legislators. Whoever succeeds Abe will inherit an unstable economy due to the COVID-19 crisis, a continuing ageing population with the generation of baby boomers becoming increasingly reliant on state funding and the pressure to restore diplomatic ties with South Korea after a tumultuous history which culminated in the controversial erection of the ‘Comfort Women’ and Abe statue.
Choosing the wrong successor could have adverse repercussions for the next election, which is scheduled for October 2021, as the Japanese public are growing hostile toward the idea of a continued LDP government.
Geography student at University College London. Interests in global culture and current affairs.