Abe's resignation announcement leaves Japan in shock
News that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told ruling party members he wanted to resign sent shock waves through Japan's political community and groups of supporters on Wednesday.
The announcement came just three days after Abe declared that he was ready to resign if the Diet failed to prolong the nation's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean to support U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations.
In a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Abe said the political situation had proved difficult in terms of public support.
"Under the current circumstances it is difficult to proceed steadily with policies in terms of public support and trust," he said. "I decided that I had to resolve the situation by drawing a line."
Abe added that he wanted to make a quick decision on his resignation to "avoid confusion." He said he hoped to have the next party president chosen as soon as possible.
Abe's government has been dogged by a series of scandals involving Cabinet ministers, and a humiliating defeat in the July 29 House of Councillors election, while his own support rating has fallen.
Abe had asked opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa to participate in talks on an anti-terrorism law relating to refueling missions, but Ozawa turned down the request saying that Abe didn't have the nation's support.
The news on Abe's plans to resign surprised many government officials.
One Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry official was shocked as he saw a televised message announcing Abe's intentions.
"If the whole Cabinet resigns, then does that mean that the minister will change? The pension issue and other things had just started to move along smoothly. I just want to know if the news is for real," the official said.
Another official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, learned of Abe's intentions through a television report.
"Is that really true? He's only just given his policy speech," the official said, stunned by the news. "I don't think the series of scandals in the Agriculture ministry was a direct cause. This situation is unusual."
The Defense Ministry's Self Defense Forces (SDF) had planned seminars across Japan starting on Friday calling for support for Japan's refueling missions, and the news on Abe's intention to resign also left SDF officials surprised.
"There was no one like Abe who visited SDF sites and paid as much attention to morale," one official said. Another official from the ministry said, "I was surprised when I heard that (former Defense Minister Yuriko) Koike wouldn't be staying, but I never thought this would happen with Abe."
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