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Abe bows to the flag before resigning. Photo: Franck Robichon - Pool/Getty Images

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party will gather in mid-September to elect a successor to Shinzo Abe as its leader and the country’s prime minister.

Driving the news: Abe announced his resignation on Friday due to chronic ulcerative colitis, just days after becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

  • Favorites to succeed him include Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, an Abe ally, and Shigeru Ishiba, an Abe critic and former defense secretary.

Flashback: Before Abe returned to power in 2012, Japan had shuffled through five prime ministers in as many years.

Data: Gleditsc and Chiozza, 2016, "Archigos — A Data Set on Leaders 1875–2015", Axios research; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The big picture: In his resignation statement, Abe acknowledged his failure to achieve signature promises, including a peace treaty with Russia to secure the return of disputed islands and reform of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

But Abe will perhaps be best remembered for restoring Japan’s status as a major player on the world stage and for strengthening the role of prime minister.

  • He also strengthened Japan’s alliance with the U.S., Michael Auslin writes for Foreign Policy.
  • “It’s been nearly a decade since Washington had to worry about whether a Japanese leader was fully committed to the alliance, could keep a stable parliamentary majority, and had clear plans for making Japan play a role in the world commensurate with its position as the third-largest economy.”
  • That era may be ending.

Editor's note: The above graphic was created in 2019, which is why the tenures of some current leaders (e.g., Boris Johnson) appear so short. See the interactive version.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - World

NZ's Jacinda Ardern becomes the latest world leader to congratulate Biden

Combination images of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: NZ Prime Minister's Office/Instagram/Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the latest world leader to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden in a phone call, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is still refusing to acknowledge the U.S. election win.

Driving the news: Biden's transition team said in a statement late Sunday he "expressed his intent to strengthen the U.S.-New Zealand partnership" and looked forward to working closely on challenges including containing COVID-19, tackling climate change and "reinforcing multilateralism."

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.