Who Will Replace Abe Shinzo? Japan Prime Minister to Resign

Long-time Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo will resign from the post he has held since 2012 due to health concerns over a chronic bowel condition.

Japan's national broadcaster NHK was the first to report that Abe planned to step down on Friday. The prime minister—Japan's longest serving by consecutive tenure at 2,799 days—will resign amid reports of his worsening health, following checkups at Tokyo's Keio University Hospital earlier this month.

Abe, 65, has suffered from chronic ulcerative colitis—an inflammatory bowel disease—since he was a teenager. The condition caused him to resign from an earlier stint as prime minister in 2007, which only lasted one year.

Despite the setback, Abe has gone on to become one of Japan's most dominant post-war politicians and synonymous with the country on the world stage. Abe told reporters Friday that his chronic condition had returned.

Attention now turns to who will replace Abe from within his conservative Liberal Democratic Party. His party allies have vowed to see out Abe's term until 2021, when new elections will be held.

The Guardian reported that Abe's finance minister Taro Aso is expected to take over as acting prime minister while LDP figures embark on a leadership race.

The BBC meanwhile, reported that Abe may not step down yet but continue to serve until a replacement leader is chosen by his LDP colleagues.

LDP figures are already maneuvering, according to Japan Times. On Friday, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told TBS TV that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga "has great capabilities" and is well placed to become Japan's next prime minister. "He has the ability to endure in the post," Nikai said.

He added that LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba may also be in contention.

Speculation was already rife after Abe visited hospital twice this month. One appointment lasted eight hours, prompting concern that the prime minister may not be fit to continue in his post. A weekend Kyodo news agency poll found that only 11 percent of respondents wanted Abe to stay on. More than 23 percent said Ishiba should take charge.

Environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi was the third choice among the surveyed with 8.4 percent support, while defense minister Taro Kono received 7.9 percent.

Kishida lagged behind with just 2.8 percent, and according to Japan Times lacks public support despite significant backing from within the party. Ishiba, meanwhile, has the backing of many regional party chapters but less support in its parliamentary ranks.

Shinzo Abe, Japan, resign, health, replacement
Japan's Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is pictured arriving at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on August 28, 2020. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty