Shinzo Abe Photograph:( Reuters )
Shinzo Abe oversaw Japan's recovery from a devastating earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. He introduced stimulus policies to revive the economy
Shinzo Abe is the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan. He is the man who has shaped the destiny of Japan for the better part of this decade is resigning from the Prime Minister's office due to health reasons.
Shinzo Abe's term in office would have ended in September 2021, but he will not be completing it as his health has come in his way.
His decision ends intense speculation over his political future. In a span of one week, Abe visited the hospital twice. The visits triggered questions over his health.
WION had earlier questioned if Shinzo Abe is fit to be in office, and today the Japanese Prime Minister put the question and the speculation to rest. He is suffering from a relapse of ulcerative colitis. This is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract of the body.
"I needed to fight against the disease and be treated and I was not really in a perfect state in terms of health conditions and still I had to make important political decisions. I cannot make any mistakes in terms of important decision-making. The support of the public - I needed to respond to this with confidence. I cannot do this and I made a decision to not continue my job as the prime minister," he said.
This is a disease that Abe has lived with since he was a teenager. It is a chronic condition that led to his first resignation in 2007.
Reports say, Shinzo Abe will now receive treatment with a new and promising drug.
India's Prime Minister Modi sent his best wishes through this tweet. "Pained to hear about your ill health, my dear friend @AbeShinzo"
Pained to hear about your ill health, my dear friend @AbeShinzo. In recent years, with your wise leadership and personal commitment, the India-Japan partnership has become deeper and stronger than ever before. I wish and pray for your speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/JjziLay2gD— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 28, 2020
Abe's decision effectively means that he will exit public life. He is Japan's longest serving Prime Minister. Abe has been in office since almost eight years now as took over the office in 2012.Before Abe, Japan saw six Prime Ministers in six years.
In the eight years that he has been the PM, Abe has done a lot. He oversaw Japan's recovery from a devastating earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. He introduced stimulus policies to revive the economy. These measures led to the nickname "Abenomics'.
Under Shinzo Abe, Japan made defence expenditure a priority. In 2017, he scrapped the rule that restricted defence spending to just one per cent of the GDP. Under him, Japan's defence budget has shot up by 13 per cent.
Abe's end game was, of course, to revise Japan's pacifist constitution — a constitution that forbids the use of force as a means to settle international disputes. It forbids Japan from maintaining its own defence forces.
Japan doesn't have an army and Abe wanted to change that. However, the plan may have to wait now.
Abe's another accomplishment is working with Donald Trump. It's quite an achievement as most world leaders have struggled on this front. However, Abe has kept the boat steady. As North Korea tested more missiles, Japan became a closer strategic partner of the US. Abe had his moments with President Trump, though. In 2017, Trump gave a memorable handshake which was hugely trolled.
Shinzo Abe will remain in office until a successor is chosen. His announcement has led to a vote in his party, the liberal democratic party.
Next Tuesday, they will decide how to hold an internal election to find Abe's replacement. After that, there will be a parliamentary vote to elect the new Prime Minister.
Some names are already doing the rounds. The first one is Taro Aso, the Finance Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of Japan. He is a core member of team Abe and a political royalty. Just like Abe, he too is the grandson of a former Premier.
The next name on the list is Shigeru Ishiba, a former Defence Minister known for his hawkish policy stands. He had defeated abe in the first round of the party presidential election in 2012, but he lost the second round.
Contender number three is Fumio Kishida who served as the Foreign Minister under Abe from 2012 to 2017. Reports say he was less keen on revising the pacifist status of Japan's constitution.