Japan’s new prime minister may become the old PM in a short period of time. Shinzo Abe may have to resign after a drubbing at the polls this weekend and the loss of the upper chamber of Parliament:
Japan is set for a political crisis as the ruling coalition of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, looks to have suffered heavy losses in elections for the Upper House of parliament.
Exit polls suggest that the conservative ruling camp has lost its majority, which would leave Mr Abe still in government but with a seriously reduced ability to pass legislation, despite the coalition’s two-thirds majority in the more powerful House of Representatives.
The prime minister’s allies have said that he would not need to step down in the event of a loss of majority, but many commentators think it would make his resignation inevitable after only 10 months in office.
That could prove uncomfortable for the US. Abe has been a strong ally in several ways. He has remained firm against Kim Jong-Il even after South Korea had gone a little squishy at times. He also has given logistical support to the war in Afghanistan, with the Japanese navy assisting us in the Indian Ocean.
Interestingly, these policies do not appear to have caused his unpopularity. The Telegraph reports that widespread dissatisfaction on economic issues undermined his party at the polls. Japan has just turned around its economy, and now voters seem more concerned over issues of pension equality and consistent regional investment — the kinds of issues that usually trip up leaders after a much longer period of time.
Abe insists he’ll stay on, but he may find himself hobbled in the legislature to the point where he can no longer be effective. Who will take his place — and will it complicate our efforts in North Korea and the Middle East?