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Hatoyama`s Short Reign

Posted June. 03, 2010 14:10,   


Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who rose to power amid high expectations of a second Meiji Revolution, said Wednesday that he will resign. He has served just eight months as his country’s leader. Ichiro Ozawa, the most powerful member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, also announced his intent to step down as secretary-general. Japan has had four prime ministers resign after less than one year on the job over the last four years: Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, Taro Aso and Hatoyama. Mounting instability is driving Japanese politics into a storm of confusion.

Factors that brought down Hatoyama were lack of experience and leadership, confusion in policy, and waning public trust. The party took power by pledging “clean politics.” After Hatoyama and Ozawa were implicated in a political fund scandal, their party came under mounting criticism of being no different from the Liberal Democratic Party, which had ruled Japan for more than half a century.

Hatoyama’s election pledge to relocate the Futenma Airbase for U.S. Marines out of Okinawa deteriorated Tokyo’s ties with its biggest ally Washington. The matter was resolved under the original 2006 plan. The prime minister also suffered setbacks in leadership due to frequent changes in stance and sloppy comments. Worse, economic recovery has been mediocre at best. With his Cabinet seeing its approval rating plunge to the 10-percent level, the administration went into a vegetative state.

Even after Hatoyama steps down, the ruling party will retain power since it has an overwhelming parliamentary majority. It will launch a new Cabinet to change the mood and prepare for next month’s elections for the House of Councilors. When it was the opposition party, it would attack frequent changes in prime minister under Liberal Democratic Party-ruled governments as “disregarding public opinion.” In light of that reasoning, the Democratic Party is effectively disregarding public opinion in a matter of slight just eight months since its inauguration. It is uncertain whether the party can earn back the Japanese public’s trust. The Hatoyama administration’s short-lived rule of eight months attests to the transience of political power.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)