Shinzo Abe resigned
Article added on September 12, 2007
On September 12, 2007 the
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on TV that he will resign
“in the present situation, it is difficult to push ahead with effective policies
that win the support and trust of the public”.
He had become Japan's youngest post-war prime minister on September 26,
2006. Since then, already for of ministers were forced to resign because of
several scandals. One minister even committed suicide because of corruption
allegations. The fifty million missing pension records were not helpful
Already on December 27, 2006 Genichiro Sata, the minister for administrative
reform, resigned amid allegations of irregular funding. On Janury 27, 2007
Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister, called women “breeding machines”. The
uproar created by his remark forced him to resign.
On May 28, 2007 Toshikatsu Matsuoka committed suicide because of his
involvement in a political funding scandal. On July 3, 2007 Fumio Kyuma, the
defense minister resigned over his remark that the U.S. nuclear bombings of
“couldn't be helped”. On August 1, 2007 Norihiko Akagi, the newly appointed
minister of agriculture resigned after being accused of financial
irregularities. After the Upper House election, Shinzo Abe reshuffled his
cabinet on August 27, 2007 for a fresh start. Only one week later, on
September 3, Takehiko Endo, the new minister of agriculture resigned after
admitting that a farm group he was heading was involved in a financial
Japanese Upper House election of July 29, 2007, in which his party,
the LDP, suffered a terrible defeat, losing control of the Upper House for
the first time in its history, not only the opposition asked for his
resignation. The night of the defeat, high ranking members of the LDP asked Shinzo
Abe to step down. The Prime Minister withstood the first tempest, but not
for long. Some people suggested that not only his political will and his
psychological strength, but also his health had been undermined by recent
attacks on his position.
The nationalist Shinzo Abe himself created irritations, not only among
his fellow Japanese. Unlike his predecessor Koizumi, he decided not to visit
the Yasakuni Shrine. However, already in his first month as prime minister,
he announced on September 29, 2006 his plan to revise the 1947 pacifist
constitution of Japan. In reality, Japan has of course already an army. The
revision of the constitution would mainly allow a larger involvement of
Japan in international diplomatic and military affairs; Japan could also
become a more useful ally of NATO forces.
Extremely damaging were Shinzo Abe's remarks on March 5, 2007 that there is
no proof that Japan army and government had forced (especially Korean) women
to serve as sex slaves (euphemistically called
“comfort women”) during the Second World War.
Shinzo Abe is Japan's youngest post-Second World War prime minster, and the
first head of government born after WWII. He is the the son of Shintaro Abe
(1924-1991), who served as minister of foreign affairs in the cabinet of
Yasuhiro Nakasone and as General Secretary of the LDP. Shintaro Abe was
married to the daughter of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Shinzo Abe's
grandfather was a brewer of soy sauce and sake and was a member of
Shinzo Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, has set a new standard when it
comes to public appeal of a politician. LDP leaders tend to be dull
apparatchiks. After the colorful Koizumi, Abe had a tough job to appeal to
voters. The scandals haunting his administration and cabinet gave him the
rest. Even in Japan, a successful leading politician has to be able to catch
the voters attention and transmit a strong message. If the LDP should fall
back to a grey technocrat, the next election will bring another disaster for
the ruling party.
Taro Aso (*1940), the current secretary general of the LDP, is considered
the man most likely to replace Abe. As a former member of the government, as
minister of foreign affairs under Koizumi and Abe, he has the necessary
experience of an executive office.
However, Taro Aso distinguished himself with racist remarks in 2001 when he
stated that a member of the Japanese ethnic minority of the Burakumin should
not become prime minister. Taro Aso also repeatedly outed himself as a
nationalist, e.g. advising the Japanese Emperor to visit the Yasukuni
shrine; unfortunately, the emperor was wise enough not to follow such an
An important part of the Japanese society - last but not least among LDP
voters - is still not ready to admit the Japanese crimes and war crimes of
the colonial and Second World War period. Despite the scandals and gaffes by
the current government, the opposition seems to be unfit to challenge the
LDP's leadership. As always, an LDP prime minister can only be sunk by his
own party, as happened to Shinzo Abe.
The LDP will chose a new party leader next week. The leader is virtually
guaranteed to become the next Japanese prime minister because the LDP
controls the Lower House.
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