Shinzo Abe is expected to stand down as prime minister of Japan on Friday evening because of a worsening medical condition, according to NHK, the country’s national broadcaster.
His resignation, expected to be announced at a press conference at 5pm local time, will end an eight-year term in office during which he brought stability to Japanese politics and became the longest-serving leader in his nation’s history.
His departure will set off a rapid process to replace him. Only parliamentarians in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party will be able to vote, favouring whichever candidate Mr Abe backs.
Mr Abe took office in 2012, promising to revive Japan’s economy with a stimulus programme known as Abenomics, which delivered a period of stronger economic growth but failed to achieve its target of 2 per cent inflation. An immediate question for his successor will be whether to continue with the stimulus programme.
Tokyo’s Topix index reversed gains of more than 1 per cent to be down 1.2 per cent in afternoon trading on Friday after the NHK report.
Japan’s yen, often a haven in times of uncertainty, strengthened 0.2 per cent to ¥106.26 per dollar.