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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe resigns -

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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe resigns

AM - Thursday, 13 September , 2007 08:20:00

Reporter: Shane McLeod

PETER CAVE: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has resigned after just a year in office, leaving
Japanese politics in turmoil.

In a lengthy resignation speech, he admitted he couldn't regain public trust after a series of
scandals, nor overcome political opposition to a controversial military deployment to Afghanistan.

As Tokyo correspondent Shane McLeod reports, the direction his party takes next could be crucial
for its future survival.

SHANE MCLEOD: A dazed and weary looking Shinzo Abe announced his departure as Prime Minister as one
might the death of a distant elderly relative.

"In the present situation," Mr Abe says, "It is difficult to push ahead with effective policies
that win the support and trust of the public. I have decided that we need a change in this
situation."

Mr Abe's political death actually happened two months ago, when he led his Liberal Democratic Party
to a crushing defeat in an election for Parliament's upper house.

He's put on a brave face ever since, but when it came to one of the Government's cherished
policies, a more active role for Japan's military overseas, Mr Abe had a big problem looming.

The opposition has refused to renew the mandate for the Self Defence Force to keep refuelling ships
in the Indian ocean, as part of US led multinational forces in Afghanistan.

Repeated efforts to get the opposition to agree to extend the mission culminated in an attempt by
Mr Abe to seek a face-to-face meeting with combative opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa.

Mr Ozawa's refusal to meet Mr Abe is believed to have been the trigger for the Prime Minister's
decision.

"In my 40 year political career," Mr Ozawa says, "There was never a case where the Prime Minister
lost the majority but didn't quit, reshuffles the cabinet, makes a general-policy speech and then
resigns before facing questions in parliament. So I don't really understand what's happening and
the Prime Minister's state of mind and way of thinking."

Mr Abe's 12 months in office had started with promise, but by the middle of this year, he'd become
mired in scandal.

A Ministerial suicide, resignations, millions of missing pension records, they all combined to
force Mr Abe's approval ratings down to historic lows.

Yesterday, some of his closest supporters were warning of the toll it had all taken.

"We were worried," says Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano, "I think the Prime Minister has been
carefully examining if his health could endure the hard schedule of being Prime Minister."

The Liberal Democratic party will meet next week to choose a successor.

Former Finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has confirmed his candidacy, and it's expected the former
Foreign minister Taro Aso will also be among the starters.

This is Shane McLeod reporting for AM.