6 Reasons Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Is Resigning

Pressure from President Obama played a role

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyamo announced on Wednesday that he will resign after only eight months in office. Here are some likely factors in the decision.

  • The U.S. Military Base Controversy  Though he came into office pledging to remove the massive U.S. Marine Corps base on Okinawa, Hatoyama reneged, promising the U.S. to keep the base. The New York Times' Martin Fackler writes, "Mr. Hatoyama took power with vows to challenge the bureaucracy’s grip on postwar governing and revive Japan’s economy. Instead, his inexperienced government appeared to become consumed by the issue of the Okinawa base ... Since taking office in September, he had come to be seen as an indecisive leader. This image was reinforced by his wavering and eventual backtracking on the base issue, which set off huge demonstrations on Okinawa and drove his approval ratings below 25 percent."
  • Too Much Pressure From Obama  Steve Clemons writes, "Hatoyama could not withstand the pressure from Obama -- who gave Hatoyama the kind of icy treatment that the White House has also been trying to give Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The problem is Hatoyama wilted, and Netanyahu seems to be thriving." Obama is guilty of "clearly smashing the legacy and political position of Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama" by forcing Hatoyama to take positions wildly unpopular with his Japanese constituents.
  • Promised Too Much, Delivered Too Little  The Associated Press' Yuri Kageyama recounts, "Sweeping into office just eight months ago by defeating the long-ruling conservatives, Hatoyama captured the imagination of many Japanese voters with his promises to bring change and transparency to government, as the country grappled with economic stagnation and an aging, shrinking population. ... 'He could not live up to the huge expectations,' said Tetsuro Kato, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. 'He just proved himself to be a rich kid without experience and leadership skills. The expectations were so great, the disappointment was also great."
  • Just Plain Incompetent  Japan Security Watch's Kyle Mizokami declares, "He was never fit for the office of prime minister, and possibly any leadership position at all. ... his indecisiveness, naivete, lack of leadership skills, inability to manage his cabinet, and general incompetence all played a role." The U.S. base "proved an unnecessary distraction from the real problems Japan faces, such as a rising China, North Korea, Japan’s economic woes, and Japan’s many social problems. That resolution of them has been delayed and the public further jaded in their view of Japanese politicians is also his fault."
  • The Constant Turmoil of Japanese Politics  After the last Prime Minister resignation in September 2008, the New York Times' Martin Fackler wrote, "a lack of strong leadership has plagued Japan, even as it has grappled with a host of new problems, including the rise of neighboring China and a slowdown in its $4.7 trillion economy. The resignations of both Mr. Fukuda and Mr. Abe, who led short-lived, unpopular governments, have highlighted the lack of stability here since the popular Junichiro Koizumi stepped down [in 2006]."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.