Japanese Prime Minister Abe Announces Resignation

By Samantha Schell
International News Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a press conference announcing his resignation (Photo courtesy of Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

On August 28th Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced his resignation. He has served as Prime Minister since the end of 2012. His resignation did not come as a surprise, as he had made two visits to the hospital in the prior week. Abe has suffered from chronic ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, for decades. He stated that he feared his declining health would hinder his ability to govern.

Shinzo Abe was most well known for his distinct economic policies. The Prime Minister’s so-called “Abenomics” advocated a “three arrow” plan that intends to combine fiscal stimulus, monetary policy, and economic reforms. The fiscal stimulus signed in 2013 was the second largest in Japanese history. The stimulus bill amounted to 20.2 trillion yen ($210 billion), which focused on rebuilding infrastructure. Abe’s monetary policy reform resulted in printing trillions of yen every year to allow additional currency circulation and push interest rates into the negative. The final arrow, structural reforms, intended to increase economic competition. Abenomics struggled to make the intended impact, and certainly did not succeed as the Prime Minister had hoped they would.

During his time as Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe was unable to fully realize his goal of altering the pacifist Constitution, implemented after the Japanese defeat by the United States in WWII. The proposed revisions would lift the ninth article, which forbids the creation of a formal Japanese army. Abe was able to pass a law that permitted the country to aid allies fighting overseas. Abe also failed to end a dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands. The two nations have yet to sign a peace treaty from WWII over the debate of the island’s ownership. Abe took an aggressive stance against North Korea, condemning the regime’s kidnapping of multiple Japanese citizens decades ago. During his time in office, Abe was unable to secure the freedom of these captives, and expressed his regrets about this failing. A unique facet of Abe’s legacy will be his notably warm diplomatic relationship with United States President Donald Trump. Their friendly rapport enabled Japan to sign a favorable trade agreement with America to lower tariffs.

When he took office in 2012, Shinzo Abe was the sixth Prime Minister in five years. He helped elevate Japan on the international stage by hosting the 2020 Olympics which have been postponed until 2021. Abe’s approval rating hit an all-time low right before his resignation from the handling of COVID-19. Many Japanese citizens felt he was too slow in declaring a state of emergency.
The election of Shinzo Abe’s predecessor will be held on September 14th within Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. They will serve the rest of Abe’s term, until September 16th, 2021. The Liberal Democratic Party has majority control over Japan’s parliament, thus their party will decide the next Prime Minister. Former Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru is a popular front runner among Japanese citizens, but he lacks major support among the LDP leadership and was often at odds with Abe. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshahide Suga is a strong ally of Abe’s and has more parliamentary support. Suga would maintain many of the Prime Minister’s policies on domestic and foreign policies, and would continue with foreign investments and work towards reform. Abe’s absence may also be felt through Japan’s international relations, as Suga is a domestically focused politician.

Shinzo Abe’s legacy as prime minister will undoubtedly be long remembered not only for the length of his tenure but also for his ambitious domestic goals and his insistence on advancing Japan’s global influence and power.


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