Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet  
Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister TOP

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda

September 1, 2008

[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda]

Almost a full year has passed since I took the baton from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and assumed the office of Prime Minister on September 26 of last year. During that period, the ruling party lost its majority in the House of Councillors following the election. It has been against such a backdrop that I have undertaken my duties as Prime Minister while recognizing the difficulties lying ahead. Quite honestly, from the beginning of my tenure I have met with a situation in which long-standing problems have risen to the surface one after another, such as the political funding issue, the pension record problem, the hepatitis C issue, and the scandals at the Ministry of Defense. I have been caught up in the handling of these problems.

Even in such a situation, I have initiated a series of unprecedented reforms -- although the reforms may not have stood out -- from the public's viewpoint and with my sights focused on the future.

These reforms include: the reallocation of revenue sources for roads to the revenues used for general purposes; the compiling of bills to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs; and the fundamental review of the social security system at the National Commission on Social Security. Though these matters have yet to be settled, I believe I have set the direction.

In addition, since the start of this year, the state of the economy and business conditions have emerged as a significant issue. I realized the necessity of exerting all my efforts to implement a powerful measure to support the people, including those engaged in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries and those working for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, as they struggle in the face of the surge in the prices of gasoline, food, and other commodities. Then, I reshuffled the Cabinet in August, aiming to ensure a system to make such a measure possible. Consequently, with this powerful new Cabinet lineup, I compiled a comprehensive measure on Friday of last week.

The upcoming extraordinary Diet session will be an opportunity to deliberate important and urgent issues affecting the people's lives, such as a supplementary budget for the abovementioned measure and the bills to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs. During the previous Diet session, when important items were handled the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was unresponsive, and instead employed the tactics of delaying and rejecting deliberations in the Diet. As a result, items that should have been decided on proved difficult to pass. It simply took a long time to decide anything.

I believe that this should not happen in the next Diet session, out of consideration for the Japanese economy and the people's lives. As such, I deem it necessary to improve the system to proceed through the upcoming Diet session. Putting the people's lives first would entail not creating a political vacuum by treating politics as a game, and not stopping the implementation of policy. Given this, I judged that policy must be realized under a new Cabinet lineup, and decided today to resign.

In order to minimize the trouble that my resignation might cause the people, I thought this would be the best moment to resign, as it falls before the start of the Diet deliberations and after the compilation of an economic package and the bills to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs. I fully expect that an even more powerful lineup will be established under the next President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and that it will push forward toward the realization of policy in the interests of the nation and the people.

Looking back over the past year, I am proud that I have established a variety of bases for major advances. I would like to express to you all my sincere gratitude for the great support you have given me.

This sums up my feelings and thoughts on my resignation.


Question 1: You have now announced your resignation, but could you please tell us when exactly you made the decision to resign? Former Prime Minister Abe relinquished the reins of government abruptly, and now you are following likewise. It seems to me that this resignation will once again sow the people's distrust in politics and the administration. What is your view on this?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: I think my case is totally different from the case of former Prime Minister Abe. Former Prime Minister Abe resigned due to health problems, but I have no particular health problems except for my weakening eyesight. I decided to resign after considering how the political situation ought to be. As to when I began to consider resigning, I made my final decision last weekend, though I had mulled over this and that in the past.

Question 2: You said that a new lineup is necessary for the upcoming Diet session, but in what respects do you think a breakthrough can be achieved in the present situation, when the new system is established?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: I should probably refrain from speaking of my own party on such an occasion as this, but the LDP will hold a presidential election and the elected president will then be appointed as the next Prime Minister. There will definitely be a difference between a new person taking over as Prime Minister and the situation were I stay in office. I made a political judgment after taking into account various situations.

Question 3: Your policies to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs and to reallocate revenue sources for roads, among other policies you mentioned in your opening remarks, are only half-completed. I think that it is usually the case that people in your position feel that seeing these policies through to completion is the way to fulfill responsibilities. But your wish is for the results to be produced under a new lineup. Why is this?

I have one more question. To resign from the post of Prime Minister is to invite a political vacuum, is it not? The resignation itself, coming at a time when business conditions and other factors are negative, creates a political vacuum. What are your thoughts on this?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: The bills to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs have for the most part been drawn up, and the ideas behind them will be explained to the Diet. My hope is that my successor as Prime Minister will treat this with importance and will continue to proceed with the bills, but I will leave the matter to my successor. In any event, the bills have been finalized to the extent that the elements to be decided remain only how to advance Diet deliberations and consultations with the opposition parties.

If my decision is understood to be irresponsible, then a Prime Minister would be obliged to continue in the post until everything has been settled. Although this is a secondary question to be answered, is it really possible? It would certainly be good if the Diet deliberations advanced smoothly under my prime ministership. That, however, would be quite difficult to achieve because the opposition parties would try to block the way, although they may do so under the new administration as well. A number of situations would work against smooth Diet deliberations, including the Cabinet's low public approval rating, which is a significant factor in my case.

I judged that now is the best time to resign in order not to create a political vacuum. For example, though it is pointless to speculate, it can be imagined that something happening in the middle of a Diet session would have a much greater influence on the people's lives.

A variety of important bills and policies will be set out. Just take the bills for example: there are bills on economic measures and on the extension of refueling activities, of which many people are aware, as well as on the establishment of an Agency for Consumer Affairs. We also have many other important items from the previous Diet session that are still outstanding. All these things must be completed in a steady fashion.

With that in mind and after thinking about a wide range of matters, I came to the conclusion that I should resign now and entrust things to a new person.

Question 4: Earlier this evening, you held a meeting for approximately one hour with LDP Secretary-General Taro Aso. Can you tell us what sort of conversation you had with him? Also, you yourself appointed Mr. Aso as Secretary-General, but will you support his candidacy in the next LDP presidential election?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: Today I invited Secretary-General Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura to my office in order to share my thoughts with them. A large number of exchanges took place over the long course of the meeting, but that is how it was.

Now, the question is what they do within the LDP. I have asked Secretary-General Aso to draw up a schedule and set in motion the procedures for the next LDP presidential election.

Question 5: I have two questions. First, in the lead up to your making the decision to resign, did you ever consider dissolving the House of Representatives and holding a general election under your administration?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: Under my administration?

Questioner: Yes. And if I might make one more point, it appears that the contorted Diet situation, in which the ruling coalition commands a majority in the House of Representatives while the opposition parties have control of the House of Councillors, or the opposition from the DPJ, made it quite difficult to carry out policy. Do you have anything to say to DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: We certainly had a very tough time because of the contorted Diet situation. On many occasions, the opposition turned down our offers to hold consultations. The DPJ opposed head on any of the important bills that the ruling parties put forward. Many times, they refused to listen to us.

I want DPJ President Ozawa to reflect on what would be in the best interests of the nation. It would have been better had we had more opportunities to talk open-mindedly and without reserve. I wish we had had more such opportunities. That is what I would like to say to him.

Question 6: Just one month ago you carried out a rather drastic Cabinet reshuffle. I am sure you thought then that you had produced a powerful Cabinet lineup to get through the extraordinary Diet session. Then you decided on the resignation of all the Cabinet members less than one month after the formation of the reshuffled Cabinet and prior, even, to the start of the Diet session. Please let us know once again how you see the situation. Moreover, what was lacking in yourself in terms of going through the extraordinary Diet session? Please tell us your thoughts on this.

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: It is only natural that you ask why I, who appointed the members of the reshuffled Cabinet one month ago, have to resign now.

Naturally, I had a strong desire to do something about these important items, at least, when I reshuffled the Cabinet. That was why I chose this particular Cabinet lineup. In particular, I thought we would have to emphasize economic measures. From the period before the Cabinet reshuffle onwards I have been turning over matters in my mind because I was convinced of the need to take economic measures. Accordingly, I quickly instructed the new Cabinet to begin preparing the economic measures. Those measures were settled, in the main, at the end of last week.

Why did my thinking change in the period following the Cabinet reshuffle? You have to take into account a variety of political situations that have arisen since then. I decided that it would be better for somebody else to take over as Prime Minister, aiming at a smoother extraordinary Diet session.

The opposition parties have inflamed the situation by indicating the possibility of the dissolution of the House of Representatives. The dissolution will have various effects on the psychology of the Diet members. It would not be good if the political situation were to become unstable as a result of such psychological considerations. Also, if such a situation were to occur, it would not stop with Diet members. It would eventually bring about troubles for the people as a whole. That being the case, I felt it was best that I made an announcement of this kind at the time when it would cause the least trouble for the Diet, and so I chose the timing accordingly. I believe this timing to be optimal.

Question 7: It has often been pointed out that at press conferences you speak about things in a way that sounds as if they were somebody else's concerns. Listening to today's announcement of your resignation as well, frankly, I have the same sort of impression.

With you leaving your post in this way following Prime Minister Abe's sudden resignation last year, what influence do you think this move will have on the present administration centered on the LDP?

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: The present administration? You mean the LDP and New Komeito party administration?

Questioner: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: It would be good if things were to proceed favorably. That would be the best outcome. However, through my eyes, which are focused on what is to come, I can see the possibility of things not proceeding favorably. On top of that, we must be careful not to get caught up in something happening unexpectedly. I have thought about such things as well.

You spoke of my speaking in a way that sounded as if I were voicing somebody else's concerns, but be assured that I am able to take an objective view of myself. In this I may differ from you. I hope you will consider that as well.

PRIME MINISTER FUKUDA: Thank you all very much for everything.