Evidently his decision came as a surprise to the LDP leadership.
In his statement, available here from Asahi, Mr. Abe emphasized that his resignation is a way to break the deadlocked situation in Japanese politics, especially concerning the anti-terror law. He hopes that his successor will have a mandate with which to carry on the fight to renew the law and advance reform.
LDP rules stipulate that a party presidential election must be held within thirty days, and it looks like the party will not delay in choosing a new leader to lead the party in the autumn special session of the Diet. Aso Taro, former foreign minister and current LDP secretary-general, is probably the favorite going into the campaign, but I wonder if the chaos in the party might present an opportunity for a populist dark horse to emerge and seize the presidency in a manner reminiscent of Koizumi’s surprise election in 2001.
The LDP is in trouble, but Mr. Abe’s unexpectedly hasty exit gives the party a chance to select someone who can communicate with the public, earn the trust of the Japanese people, and move an agenda forward in cooperation with the DPJ. Indeed, the DPJ might be the biggest loser from Mr. Abe’s early departure, provided that the LDP’s next president is an improvement on the hapless Mr. Abe. As long as Mr. Abe was in the Kantei, the DPJ faced a government in disarray, with an increasingly powerless prime minister beholden to his senior advisers.