Japan’s outgoing premier has said he resigned to break a deadlock over Japan’s support for US-led operations in Afghanistan. Shinzo Abe said he was standing down in order to help parliament reach a compromise on the issue. Boosting the country’s global security profile was one of his stated aims on being elected a year ago. But after his Liberal Democrats lost control of the upper house of parliament in July this and other policies have proved difficult to push through.
Taro Aso is considered the frontrunner to take over from Abe as party leader and, consequently, prime minister. But no date has been given yet for a handover and Aso himself has so far declined to say whether he wants the job. The former foreign minister is said to share much of Abe’s political outlook. But some analysts doubt he has the stature and support to stop his party’s slide in the polls.
Whoever takes over will face stiff challenges including cutting Japan’s huge public debt, reforming taxes and reviving weak regional economies.