"Hooray! Now We're In Power! .....what do we do now?"
That's pretty much been the mantra of Japan's Democratic Party since they managed to finally unseat the Liberal Democratic Party in 2009. And now, the PM's resigned, over a bit of a kerfluffle involving the U.S., Okinawa, and that damn military base.
The Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is to resign, he said today. He said that ruling party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa would also resign from the party's No 2 post.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said this morning that Hatoyama had told party executives of his intention to step down, to take responsibility over his broken campaign promise to move a US marine base off the southern island of Okinawa.
The embattled prime minister has faced growing pressure from within his own party to resign ahead of forthcoming elections in July.
His approval ratings have plummeted over the broken campaign promise, reinforcing his public image as an indecisive leader after only eight months in office.
His government came to power amid high hopes last September after his Democratic party (DPJ) soundly defeated the long-ruling conservatives in lower house elections.
But his public image has suffered amid a political funding scandal and perceived indecision, particularly on his reversal on Futenma, the marine airbase. He now says he will go along with the 2006 agreement to move the base to a northern part of the island, infuriating residents who want it off Okinawa entirely.
Okinawa houses more than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan, stationed under a bilateral security alliance.
Hatoyama's three-way coalition was cut to two members over the weekend when a junior partner, the Social Democrats, withdrew after the prime minister expelled its leader Mizuho Fukushima, who rejected the Futenma decision, from the cabinet.
The DPJ and a remaining coalition partner still hold a majority in both houses of the Diet, or parliament – though just barely in the less powerful upper house.
Fukushima's dismissal enhanced her public standing as a politician who stood up for her convictions and reinforced perceptions of Hatoyama as weak.
The largest Japanese newspaper, the Yomiuri, citing its own survey conducted yesterday, said nine out of 43 upper house MPs from Hatoyama's party seeking re-election in July said Hatoyama's resignation ahead of the poll was unavoidable, while 13 others urged him to make his own decision.
But some cabinet ministers defended Hatoyama.
Finance minister Naoto Kan, a man some have speculated might become the next prime minister, said he has supported Hatoyama's leadership and "that has not changed".
Transport minister Seiji Maehara said he was against frequent leadership change even though Hatoyama should take responsibility for his recent political bungling by staying on to do a better job.
Public support for the current government has slid to 17%, down four percentage points from a previous poll two weeks ago, according to the latest survey by the daily Asahi, published yesterday. Disapproval rating jumped to 70% from 64%.
In a weekend telephone survey of 1,033 voter households, the Kyodo News agency found that more than half said Hatoyama should step down, while 44% disagreed. Kyodo did not give a margin of error, but a poll of that size would normally have a five percentage point sampling error.