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Fukuda's resignation leaves uncertainty to ruling party
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Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced his abrupt resignation Monday evening, sending shockwaves across the nation and incurring criticism. Sluggish public support rate and tough political situation such as the "contorted" Diet finally cornered Fukuda to step down less than one year in office.

As Fukuda recalled at the hastily-convened press conference at his official residence, his Cabinet has never stood on a favorable ground. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was defeated in the House of Councillors election two month before he assumed the premiership in September 2007, costing the ruling coalition's majority in the upper house of the Diet.

Fukuda's adeptness at coordination failed to work. The major opposition Democratic Party of Japan refused Fukuda's invitation to form a coalition government and waged all-out confrontation in the Diet, blocking several critical bills such as the special antiterrorism measures law which was aimed at extending the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)' refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

In the latest case, the government's appointments of the central bank leadership was turned down for several times in the parliament.

Although the more powerful House of Representatives, or the lower house, which is under control of the ruling coalition, could overturn the upper house's decision by a two-thirds majority in accordance with the parliamentary law, the process is not only time-consuming, but also highly likely to arouse the public's discontent of politics, thus further risk the government's approval rating.

Since early this year, incidents such as the Maritime SDF's collision with a fishing boat, unresolved blunder of losing huge number of pension records, imposing additional petroleum tax and new medical system for seniors dragged the Fukuda Cabinet into worse situation. From 50 percent shortly after taking office, Fukuda's support rate declined to just 20 percent in May and has been hovering over the dangerous level. The Group of Eight summit in July and the reshuffle of the Cabinet and the LDP leadership in early August helped little on boosting the rate.

Without the public support, Fukuda has no way to exert pressure on the opposition bloc in the Diet. Furthermore, the prospect for the ruling party's success in the next lower house election was turning blur.

The LDP's friction with the minor ruling coalition partner the New Komeito party has been accumulating. Difference were not only over whether to forcibly extend the refueling mission by the two-thirds majority in the lower house, but also over when to convene the extraordinary Diet session.

Analysts said that as the ruling party could not get the two-thirds majority in the lower house by itself, Fukuda was almost in despair on Diet management and lost the final resolution to continue his administration.

Fukuda said that now was the good timing for him to resign in order not to leave political vacuum and make trouble for the people as the extraordinary Diet session is still some time away.

In retrospect at the press conference, Fukuda reminded of his Cabinet reshuffle in early August and publication of a set of comprehensive economic policies last week. He expressed his confidence that his work in the past year constituted a strong basis for future significant progress.

Japanese media said the future is not optimistic for the ruling party as the contorted Diet is not to be changed and Fukuda's abrupt resignation, which bore resemblance of that of Shinzo Abe, was a sever blow to the prestige of the LDP.

Even within the LDP, criticism was soaring over Fukuda's resignation, calling it an "irresponsible" act. LDP Secretary General and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso is widely seen as a front-runner in the upcoming LDP general election. In the tough situation, it is hard to say whether the popular politician, if elected, would repeat the fate of his two predecessors.

(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2008)

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