Japanese leadership crisis – new PM

September has not been a good month for politics in Japan.

At the beginning of September, Agriculture Minister Takehiko Endo resigned only a week after being appointed. He admitted that a private farm group he heads was involved in illegal dealings – it had been paid 1.15m Yen ($9,900) by the state after overstating crop damage in 1999. Endo’s predecessor, Norihiko Akagi, also resigned in August over an accounting row in his office. And the previous incumbent, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, committed suicide in May over claims he had links to a political funding scandal. Agriculture is dirty business! He was replaced by Masatoshi Wakabayashi, Japan’s fourth agriculture minister in four months.

Then despite Shinzo Abe’s cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to regain credibility after the LDP’s utter defeat in July’s upper house polls, it all became to much for him and he resigned as Prime Minister owing to exhaustion. His support waned as he faced a row over pensions, scandals (as above) and pushed for more military engagement in a pacifist country.

Today, Yasuo Fukuda became Prime Minister, having won leadership of the LDP last Sunday by defeating hawkish former Foreign Minister Taro Aso. Fukuda’s support may have been come from a desire to return to a more traditional profile. Fukuda is a member of the political elite. He is the son of a prime minister from the 1970s and was former chief cabinet secretary under Mr Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. Fukuda is also not young at 71 – Abe was Japan’s youngest Prime Minister and Koizumi was also relatively young. Fukuda has said that he will seek stronger ties to Asian neighbours, including China.

Certainly Japan needs a steady hand. It also needs to expunge cronyism. This will allow people to focus on economics and society instead of the messy business of politics.


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