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Why Japanese PM Abe quit abruptly?
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10:03, September 14, 2007

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon at an urgent press conference. After taking office on September 26 last year as Japan's youngest postwar premier, why did Abe quit so suddenly after one year? News reports ran three possibilities.

First, he was troubled by the extension of Japan's refueling mission. Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are providing refueling and logistics services for coalition vessels in the Indian Ocean; acting in accordance with the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law that is due to expire on November 1. So, Abe proposed chief party talks on extension of the law with Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the opposition, the Democratic Party. Abe's proposal was rejected. Abe said Sunday in Sydney that he would resign if he fails to win parliamentary passage of legislation extending the Law. At Wednesday's press conference, the premier said failure to realize party chief talks with Ichiro Ozawa was the cause of his resolution to resign.

The second possible reason is the premier's "health condition." Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano told reporters Wednesday afternoon that one unmentioned cause of the premier's resignation is his health; saying that although details cannot be revealed, the premier was once deeply troubled by the balance of health and work. Abe had "serious health conditions" after visits to three Asian countries in late August; this was confirmed by LDP Secretary-General Taro Aso. First lady Akie Abe also told reporters on August 16 that resignation would be a relief for Abe at his age.

The third reason is that Abe failed to maintain cohesion within his administration and reverse his declining support ratings. He reshuffled the Cabinet on August 27 in an effort to regain public trust - a move which did increase his ratings by 10 percentage points in opinion polls. But this was short-lived. Abe's third agricultural minister in four months, Takehiko Endo, was forced to resign after eight days in office, for receiving $9,930 in government subsidies from an exaggerated claim of weather damage to a 1999 grape harvest on a farm he headed. This was followed by an eruption of political funds misuses that involved Environmental Minister Ichiro Kamoshita and Population and Gender Equality Minister Yoko Kamikawa.

The Opposition, believing that Abe should take the responsibility for the appointment, attacked him strongly; and considered exposing his responsibility to the Diet. Before meeting with journalists, Abe said to ruling party officials that he resigned because of the lack of "cohesion," and then told reporters he would "reflect on losing public trust."

Taro Aso confirmed Abe's intention to resign as early as September 10, but persuaded him not to - saying this was not the right time. Most Japanese politicians, including those from the LDP, thought his resignation ultimately came at a bad time. The ruling party expressed shock and bewilderment; and former Cabinet members also expressed their confusion.

News reports listed LDP Secretary-General Taro Aso, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, and Defense Minister Masahiko Komura, as strong candidates competing for Abe's post.

By People's Daily Online

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