Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda to resign (Lead)

September 2nd, 2008 - 12:24 am ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, Sep 1 (DPA) Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced Monday night he was stepping down in the face of declining popular support for his government.Fukuda made the announcement at a news conference where he said he had made the decision to step down at the end of last week.

Fukuda succeeded former prime minister Shinzo Abe last September to become a leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and prime minister.

The 72-year-old premier said that he intended to reform the nation’s economy when he reshuffled his cabinet a month ago.

But at Monday’s news conference he said he thought someone else may be able to do a better job than he could.

“It is necessary to try to implement measures under a new framework… I thought now is the best time (to resign) to avoid a political vacuum,” Fukuda said.

An extraordinary session of the Japanese Diet, or parliament, is scheduled to open Sep 12.

Fukuda’s decision came at a time when his cabinet has suffered very low popular support, which has stagnated at below 30 percent.

His popularity failed to recover even after he hosted the Group of Eight summit meeting in northern city of Toyako in July.

The resigning premier said he had instructed LDP Secretary General Taro Aso to prepare to hold a party presidential election to pick his successor as party leader.

Under Abe’s leadership, the ruling coalition saw a historical defeat to lose its majority in the upper house, Japan’s House of Councillors.

After the news of Fukuda’s resignation spread Monday night, citizens criticised his sudden announcement.

A businessman in Hiroshima was quoted by NHK broadcasting as saying that the prime minister’s decision was “irresponsible”.

“I wonder if he could even list one thing he has accomplished,” the middle-aged business man said.

Another businessman in Tokyo was not too disappointed because he didn’t expect Fukuda to last long as the nation’s leader.

“I think it turned out the way it should,” he was quoted as saying by a television news programme.

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