Shinzo Abe to step down as Japanese prime minister

Ministers and aides confirm country’s longest serving leader will resign due to ill health

Shinzo Abe will stand down as prime minister of Japan on Friday evening because of a worsening medical condition, according to his ministers and close aides.

His resignation, expected in a press conference at 5pm local time, will end an eight-year term during which Mr Abe brought stability to Japanese politics and became the longest-serving leader in his nation’s history.

It will ignite a race for the leadership of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party while Japan is struggling to deal with the impact of Covid-19, a deep economic downturn and disputes with its neighbours in China and South Korea.

Hiroshige Seko, head of the LDP in the upper house of parliament and one of Mr Abe’s closest allies in politics, said the prime minister had chosen to quit now rather than risk a chaotic exit when his health deteriorated.

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Read more: ft