Bad timing Abe!

CONSIDERING Shinzo Abe’s refusal to step down as Japanese prime minister following his Liberal Democrats’ July routing in the upper house of parliament, his sudden resignation now comes as an unexpected surprise to many — not least the country’s important stock index.

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Published: Thu 13 Sep 2007, 8:36 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:04 AM

The sentiment is made all the more stronger because the election loss made it clear that rather than “making Japan beautiful”, the country’s most pressing concerns were far more common place, involving “bread and butter issues”.

As pointed out in this space following the July election, Japan’s is one of the more significant economies on the international stage, which by modern day compulsions means its political movements have repercussions far across its borders. Therefore, for Abe not to concentrate on matters that threw his party out of the chamber for the first time in half a century and instead let US war on terror related issues form the backbone of his latest political thrust was not the most politically prudent way forward. Instead of steadying Japan’s ship, it put it in more troubled waters on the domestic front, as was more than apparent from the bickering in parliament.

But even though Abe’s stint at the top was short, it did not completely fail to draw appreciation. Nobody, especially him, expected taking over from Koizumi to be easy. But he still managed to win regional and Western kudos, especially by reaching out to China in a more pragmatic way than his predecessor.

Now, it is essential for his successor to put divisive issues away for later and concentrate wholeheartedly on addressing domestic economic woes — the widening rich-poor gap, the economic deprivation, the job-rate statistics, etc. Of course, learning from Abe’s example, it would also help to keep a trusted team of experts in cabinet, who would not be found jumping ship one after the other owing to personal reasons that made it impossible to keep up a public profile.

Again, at the risk of repetition, Japan’s influence in the wider region means it has lost more than just a prime minister. Growing economic integration spreads effects of bad news much faster than the contrary. That is why the repair work in waiting for the new PM is tremendous. The sooner and the more smoothly the transition phase is finished, the better for Japan and beyond.

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