TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will resign because of ill health, the country’s national broadcaster reported on Friday, just four days after he exceeded the record for the longest consecutive run as leader in Japanese history.
Mr. Abe, 65, had been prime minister for nearly eight years, a significant feat in a country accustomed to high turnover in the top job. During his tenure, he oversaw Japan’s recovery from a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, restored a semblance of economic health and curried favor with an unpredictable American president, Donald J. Trump.
Yet despite his long hold on power — his second stint as prime minister, having held the post in 2006-7 — Mr. Abe failed to reach some of his signature goals. He was unable to revise the pacifist Constitution installed by postwar American occupiers, or to secure the return of contested islands claimed by both Japan and Russia so that the two countries could sign a peace treaty to officially end World War II.
The governing Liberal Democratic Party will appoint an interim leader who will serve until the party can hold a leadership election. Mr. Abe’s term was set to expire in September 2021.
The Japanese news media had been speculating about Mr. Abe’s health for weeks, particularly after he significantly dialed back public appearances as a new wave of coronavirus infections erupted in clusters throughout the country. When Mr. Abe visited a hospital twice in the span of a week, the rumor mill went into overdrive.
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