Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced at a press conference Friday that we was stepping down because of health reasons. The news of the resignation broke earlier in the day when public broadcaster NHK cited sources saying the prime minister would leave office. Abe suffers from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, and had unexpectedly stepped down once before, in 2007, because of his illness.
The staunch conservative had just become Japan’s longest consecutively serving prime minister on Monday, overtaking his great-uncle and fellow LDP member Eisaku Sato, who served between 1964 and 1972.
Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister by total days in office in November, pulling ahead of Katsura Taro, who returned to office twice between 1901 and 1913. Similar to Katsura, fourth-longest serving prime minister Ito Hirobumi lived in a time before political parties became established in Japan. The country’s first prime minister served four separate terms or a total of 2,720 days. Post-war prime minister Shigeru Yoshida comes in rank 5 and also returned to the office once.