Who’s next ? Is it going to be Taro ?
Fukuda quits as leader of Japan after 11 months
Yasuo Fukuda resigned as the prime minister of Japan on Monday,
after less than a year in office marked by political gridlock, plunging
approval ratings and disarray within the governing Liberal Democratic Party.
“I feel it’s best to hand over the reins of power to a new leader,” Fukuda said
in Tokyo on Monday evening. His 11-month tenure was the shortest for
a Japanese leader since 1994.
Fukuda is the second prime minister to resign since the Liberal Democratic Party,
or LDP, lost control of the upper house of Parliament in July 2007 to the Democratic
Party of Japan. Fukuda’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, also resigned suddenly after just
12 months in the job. The governing party’s inability to work with the opposition – or
win popular support for road taxes and higher health care premiums for the elderly – suggests
that it will have to struggle to maintain its decades-long grip on power.
Recent political gridlock led to the first leadership vacancy at the
Bank of Japan in more than eight decades and helped drive the country’s
benchmark stock index, the Nikkei 225 stock average, down about 20 percent
since Junichiro Koizumi, Abe’s predecessor, left office.
“The 53-year-old LDP is reaching the end of its political shelf life,” said
Masayuki Fukuoka, a professor of political science at Hakuoh University north of Tokyo.
The party is required to hold lower-house elections by September 2009.
It has held power through coalitions for all but about a year since it was formed in 1955.
The coalition had to use its two-thirds majority to override upper-house
vetoes on legislation to renew refueling missions in the Indian Ocean for
the U.S. military and taxes earmarked for road construction. It was the first
time that the lower house had used the maneuver since 1951.
Fukuda’s approval rating has fallen by almost half since he took office
last September. Public support for his cabinet fell to 29 percent, down
9 percentage points from early August, the newspaper The Nikkei reported
Monday, citing its own telephone survey. Fukuda’s disapproval rating rose
14 points, to 63 percent. The Nikkei said it contacted 1,549 households and
obtained 866 valid responses.
Fukuda replaced Abe, who cited his inability “to gain the trust of the people”
when he stepped down. Abe resigned after his approval rating fell below 30 percent.
Fukuda, the first prime minister whose father also held the position,
beat former Foreign Minister Taro Aso in the LDP’s party vote for the leadership.
He had served as cabinet chief for former prime ministers Koizumi and Yoshiro Mori.
When he assembled his first cabinet in September, Fukuda said he wanted
to “revive” the LDP by transforming it into a political party that “firmly implements policies.”
Aso will handle the selection of a new party leader, Fukuda said. Analysts
said that Aso, who is the LDP’s secretary general and an outspoken,
right-leaning politician, was the front-runner to succeed Fukuda.
Speculation had been simmering that the unpopular prime minister might
be replaced before a general election that must be held by September 2009.
Fukuda’s resignation does not automatically mean an election. His party
must pick a new leader and win the confidence of the lower house if it
wants to carry on leading Japan’s coalition government.
“The LDP has had no leadership, and is in the process of disintegrating,” Gerald Curtis,
a political science professor at Columbia University, said before Fukuda’s
resignation Monday. “Japan is a political basket case.”
The brief terms of Abe and Fukuda contrasted with that of Koizumi, who left
office after five-and-half years. When he was elected, Japan faced economic
deflation and recession. Koizumi cut spending and urged banks to write off bad loans.
First, it started off with Abe when he got bullied and his resignation created history, quite a bitter one for this developed country. Next, the person who took his baton was Fukuda and only after 11 months, he quited just today on the 1st September 2008, creating another so-called surprising bitter history for Japan. Fukuda wasn’t functioning as he should. The numbers weren’t supporting him at all from the very beginning and the atmosphere of him quiting (after his big failure to change things around during his recent cabinet reshuffling that was just done a few months ago) had been looming around. Now, the question arises, “Who’s next?” but it has always been obvious in this country. They always prepare for its nation of whom they should choose. Japan’s needs a charismatic character which can lead the country and at the same time keep the heat going. Will Taro be the one ? We’ll see but many of us are quite sure who it will be when the news is out about the birth of a new cabinet in the near future.