Bowing (literally) to the inevitable, Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama announced his resignation today. The once supremely popular but now severely unpopular prime minister took the blame for the failure to relocate the Futenma Air Base to anywhere other than Okinawa. At least he did the honourable thing, one could say, by resigning. But his resignation now triggers a political crisis within the DPJ – who amongst their leadership will have the clout to lead the party and command respect from the populace at large ? The names being bandied about look a bit too familiar – Naoto Kan, Seiji Maehara and perhaps Katsuya Okada although the latter is probably an outsider at this stage. Of course the name that one would have thought might have been there is such an event is missing as he too announced his resignation from the critical post of Party Secretary General – namely one Ichiro Ozawa. Mired in ‘difficulties’, it was no secret that although he held no formal post in Cabinet, his influence on the current administration was writ large. With him gone, expect to see further disintegration within the DPJ ahead of the Upper House elections in July.
While it may not yet be a ‘kick the bastards out’ election and while the LDP might feel that the tide is turning their way, the course of economic policy and general direction in Japan is hardly certain. Certainly, the LDP do not appear to have a strong alternative and there does not appear to be a stong Koizumi-type leader to galvanize the party and the attention of the public.
The lost decade between the 1990s and the 2000s looks likely to continue for some time yet as Japan still struggles to determine its internal and external destinies and identity. It is a great shame. Japan still has a significant role to play in economic and political stability in North Asia just when things are getting tense. Political uncertainty at this time is not what the doctor ordered.