Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Seeing the elephant for what is, perhaps...

Abe Shinzō's resignation has led to an explosion of different stories explaining today's sudden announcement.

It is like the fable of the elephant...each person has a different explanation, depending upon what bit of the animal each person has a grip on.

- It turns out that on Sunday night after returning from APEC, the PM told Aso Tarō privately of his desire to quit. According to Aso, Abe felt his continued presence had become a distraction. Aso claims he told the PM to put off the decision, as there was important work to do. However, the PM did not change his mind over the next three days.

- Yosano Kaoru says the PM cannot reveal the reason...but he has been having severe health problems of late. During the visit to India and Southeast Asia, the symptoms grew terrible.

- The scandal press flacks say the Prime Minister learned of the publication of a major exposé in Shūkan Gendai tomorrow involving a slush fund left behind by his father and grandfather. Abe thus jumped before being pushed.

- Katayama Satsuki (the former highest-ranked woman in the Finance Ministry, a Koizumi assassin, an Abe backer and the former Mrs. Matsuzoe) says, "This is a coup d'état."

I do not give much credence to the first three explanations--well, I will cut Yosano some slack if "mental illness" can be included among the unspeakable illnesses of which he speaks. I can see Abe cracking under the pressure--losing a friend to suicide; seeing his other friends being forced to resign one after the other; being the butt of everyone's jokes; seeing his entire political "Beautiful Japan" movement in ruins; watching his best friends overseas getting crushed by their own domestic political problems.

The idea that a Shūkan Gendai article could be a trigger for the resignation seems the most specious of all. The scandal mags have been printing a career-ending exposés about Abe and company every week for at least half a year now.

However, the simplest answer is probably the correct one--he had an epiphany over these past few days that he was not the prime minister anymore. He was left out of the loop in the Endō takedown. It is not at all strange that a broken-spirited Abe would take leave of the whole sick farce.

The timing of the announcement also makes sense: just about the time he was explaining his intention to quit, he was scheduled to be facing intense questioning from the leaders of the other parties in Diet session. Look at it from Abe's perspective--why should he have to be lacerated by the opposition before the assembled membership of the Diet and the entire nation--when the government in place is not his government anymore, not really?

Wouldn't you, if you were in Abe's place, just cut your losses and skip town, leaving in the lurch all those who have been tormenting and denigrating you?

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