Abe who exceeded the record for the longest consecutive run as leader in Japanese history has been prime minister for nearly eight years.
Mr. Abe said during a news conference Friday evening that he had suffered a relapse of the bowel disease that led him to resign during his first stint in office.
His conservative governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to appoint an interim leader who will serve until the party can hold a leadership election, according to NHK, the public broadcaster. Mr. Abe’s term was set to expire in September 2021.
The leading candidates to replace Mr. Abe include Taro Aso, the long-serving deputy prime minister and a former prime minister; Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary to Mr. Abe; Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister who once ran against Mr. Abe for party leader; Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister; and Taro Kono, the current foreign minister.
Earlier on Friday, Yoshihide Suga, Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, had reassured reporters that Mr. Abe intended to stay in office. “The prime minister himself has said he would like to work hard again from now on, and I’m seeing him every day,” Mr. Suga said in a news briefing, saying that the prime minister’s health “remains unchanged.”
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