AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Prime Minister Fukuda resigns

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 1, 2008

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA YASUO announced his resignation about two hours ago, as I write, citing the need to break the stalemate that is expected to continue between the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, on one hand, and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan on the other, with the fall Diet session slated to begin in less than two weeks.

No one should treat this as a bolt out of the blue. The Japanese media has been speculating for several months on the timing of Mr. Fukuda’s replacement (a better word than departure), and the bulk of opinion had the party elders looking for a way to provide him with a hanamichi after the G-8 summit in July. (A hanamichi, or “flower way”, is a passageway running from the stage through the audience to the rear of the theater. It is also used as an expression for finding someone a graceful exit at the end of his career.)

The combination of low opinion polls, the lack of any real personal power within the party, and Mori Yoshiro’s kiss of death earlier this month made this inevitable.

What happens next?

The opposition DPJ will scream that the lower house of the Diet should be dissolved immediately and an election held (with some justification), but the LDP will ignore them.

The LDP will have an election to choose a new party president, who will then become the next prime minister. The favorite as of now is Aso Taro, faction leader, former defense minister and now party secretary-general. The current issue of the Sunday Mainichi weekly magazine, however, suggests that other people who might contest the election include:

Koike Yuriko, former defense minister, who is pro-growth and reform (Machimura faction);

Noda Seiko, state minister of state for science and technology policy, food safety, consumer affairs, and space policy. She’s also a former minister of posts and telecommunications who opposed the privatization of Japan Post, got thrown out of the party by then-Prime Minister Koizumi, and was readmitted by his successor Abe Shinzo;

Yosano Kaoru, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, whom the magazine calls a dark horse (no faction). He is the most visible proponent of giving priority to fiscal restructuring before growth and reform.

Anyone who makes any predictions beyond that is talking through his hat!

I’ll have more on this later, but long-time readers know that I prefer to do longer pieces after events shake out rather than bite-size blog speculation. So hang on a bit!

4 Responses to “Prime Minister Fukuda resigns”

  1. Ken said

    Machimura Nobutaka, Chief Cabinet Secretary, is the leader of the largest faction and very ambitious.
    He yielded running for the party president to PM Fukuda in his faction last year.
    I expect him this time.

  2. Ken said

    Kaoru Yosano is another possible candidate. I don’t see Aso wanting the helm right now, especially since the current Cabinet (aside from Mr Ota) will need to be inherited.

    Bill, your second paragraph is dead on, and illustrates why the foreign media is lost here. just yesterday, the Nikkei reported Mr Fukuda’s cabinet approval ratings down 9 points. I think Mr Mori knew this was coming.

    A new Prime Minister means we must have a special session in addition to the already scheduled extraordinary session, which means there will be enough time to pass the bills the LDP wants. This is a big middle finger to Komeito.

    The opposition DPJ will scream that the lower house of the Diet should be dissolved immediately and an election held (with some justification), but the LDP will ignore them.

    I think you’re right. This is a very contrarian stance right now, which makes me think it is what will play out. The LDP has to hold on as long as possible, because an early vote does them no good. Replacing Fukuda now means the vote is put off. However, I doubt the LDP is better in the long run.

  3. nigelboy said

    http://sankei.jp.msn.com/politics/policy/080902/plc0809020944010-n1.htm

    Article in Sankei also mentioned Nobuteru Ishihara, eldest son of Shintaro Ishihara, as a possible candidate.

  4. Durf said

    Ken writes:

    A new Prime Minister means we must have a special session in addition to the already scheduled extraordinary session, which means there will be enough time to pass the bills the LDP wants.

    How do the numbers work there? I know the consensus is that the 70 days from 9/12 weren’t going to be enough to get the anti-terror law renewal through the lower house, upper house (where it would get sat on), and back to the lower house.

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