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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008
Change-bent public pines for leadership
By MINORU MATSUTANI, SHINICHI TERADA, and NATSUKO FUKUE
Perplexity, apathy and hopes for a strong leader.
Those were the ways many Japanese and foreign Tokyoites reacted Tuesday to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's sudden decision to resign the previous night.
Fukuda, who accepted the post last September, is now set to become the second consecutive prime minister to resign after just a year in office. His predecessor, Shinzo Abe, made the same announcement in early September 2007 — nearly a year after being appointed.
"Japan is weak now, the yen is weak, everybody talks about China and forgets about Japan," said German banker Christoph Sembritzki, 35. "Japan needs strong leadership."
He said it is very strange that Fukuda resigned after just a year because he believes a year is too short for a prime minister to achieve anything. Japan has been through 13 leaders in 20 years.
A 23-year-old Indian woman working at an investment bank in Roppongi said Japan's revolving door leadership may have a negative impact if the prime ministers keep changing this often. The woman declined to give her name.
A man who only gave his family name, Tochimoto, said Japan needs a leader like former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi because Fukuda's remarks were fuzzy and the public cannot trust the government.
"I think (former Foreign Minister Taro) Aso is a good choice for prime minister because he sounds like an assertive politician," the 61-year-old pharmacist said near JR Shinbashi Station.
"We need a strong leader like Koizumi who can lead the public. A hike in the consumption tax may be inevitable, but we will follow the prime minister's guidance as long as he shows leadership and clearly explains the need to raise the tax," he said.
Some people say they would favor a prime minister from the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, this time because they want Japanese politics to actually change.
Yoshio Hashimoto, a 38-year-old office worker, thinks former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike might be a good candidate for prime minister. But he also said the DPJ should be the ruling party because Fukuda's resignation was irresponsible and if the LDP remains in power, politics will not change.
Kazuo Nakamura, 67, supports the ruling Liberal Democratic Party but thinks the DPJ should take the reins of power this time to effect true political change.
As concern about the economy continues to build, some people said Japan needs a leader who can ease their worries. But others simply expect little or nothing from the next prime minister, no matter who it is.
Salesman Kazuki Shimizu, 22, said there were no good candidates.
"There is no one interesting. Even if the Democratic Party of Japan takes control of the government, I think uncertainties over the economy and other situations will not change in the long term," he said.
"A series of taxes are on the way and food prices are rising, but wages haven't risen very much. The tobacco tax is also set to increase in the near future," said Shimizu, who smokes.
Keiko, who declined to give her last name, said she expects the next administration to work on sorting out the missing pension records and revamp the tax system to achieve fiscal rehabilitation.
"Can we get a pension in the future? We don't know for sure," the 23-year-old office worker said.