TOKYO, Japan (CNN) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his resignation Wednesday at a news conference in Tokyo after serving one year in office.
Prime Mininster Shinzo Abe drops his head as he listens to questions during a press conference on Wednesday.
"A short while ago I informed officials about my intentions to resign," Abe said, underscoring the need to "be careful not to create a void in the political leadership."
The prime minister said Japan should try to have a new leader "as soon as possible … even today if possible."
The decision to step down as head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was made, Abe said, because he was "having an adverse effect on enabling Japan’s efforts to contribute" to the "fight against terror."
"In order to continue the war on terror I thought carefully about what needs to be done," he said. "I have decided that it is time to take a new approach — time for a new face, and perhaps this is something that needs to be done under a new prime minister."
National broadcaster NHK reported the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was making arrangements to hold an election for a successor next week, according to the Associated Press, which also reports that Abe’s former foreign minister, Taro Aso, is considered a front-runner to replace him.
Abe announced his departure just as the government faced a battle in parliament over whether to extend the country’s naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan, according to AP. Just days earlier, he said he would quit if he failed to win parliamentary passage of legislation extending the mission, AP reported.
There have been very few bright days for Abe, whose support rating has dropped to 30 percent, and his LDP since they lost control of the upper house of Japan’s parliament to the opposition in July’s elections — results Abe described as "very bad."
Since reshuffling his cabinet two weeks ago, Abe has lost four party members to scandals: his new agricultural minister (the second in a month), a deputy foreign minister, a mid-ranking parliamentarian and a newly elected member of Japan’s upper house have all resigned over allegations of financial or electoral misconduct.
Meanwhile, bilateral talks with Pyongyang on the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea, an item high on Abe’s agenda, have foundered. His party faces a schism on whether to allow members expelled by his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, back into the fold. And the only popular member of his new cabinet, Yoichi Masuzoe, is stuck with the unenviable and potentially embarrassing task of chasing down social-welfare agency officials suspected of stealing from the nation’s pension fund.