The culture of resignation is one of the manifestations of a civilized civil society. It is a positive behavioral practice that aims to give priority to the public interest over one’s personal good, in order to correct the failure of the institution – and the person leading it – to achieve its strategic goals. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the country where this culture of accountability and resignation is most present is Japan. In Japan, people are educated from a young age on the importance of morals and integrity. This allows them to develop honesty, responsibility, alongside the values of discipline and duty, mastery of work, and preservation of public money. Whoever digs into Japanese news will find countless examples of ministers and leaders who submitted their resignations, for reasons that might seem trivial to us, based on our culture. Reasons include receiving funds from donors to support electoral campaigns or taking on gifts from supporters. In Japan, if a train is delayed or late, if contaminated foodstuffs are discovered, or if vital equipment malfunctions at a hospital, the person in charge of the problem will resign. In this context, it’s important to note that throughout Japan’s history, many of the country’s political leaders stepped down from their positions, because they felt like medical conditions prevented them from properly leading their country. We have seen how former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voluntarily resigned from his position in August 2020, citing medical issues, while he was at the peak of his power and popularity. Before him, another Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who was charismatic and wildly popular, voluntarily left power after feeling like he “gave it his all” and it was time to move on. Most recently, current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who succeeded Shinzo Abe as Japan’s leader less than a year ago, followed his predecessors’ lead and stepped down prematurely. Suga announced that, due to health reasons, he would not vie for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in its internal elections, held on September 29, and that he will devote his efforts to fighting the coronavirus pandemic that has taken over Japan. Thus, Suga’s resignation paves the path to a heated race among many Japanese politicians who would like to take his place. One report suggested that Suga was pressured from within his party, led by his deputy, Taro Aso, to resign, in preparation for the selection of an alternative figure who would enjoy greater popularity and would lead the party in the upcoming general elections. According to Japanese newspapers and media, Suga’s plummeting popularity came due to a number of crucial mistakes he made during his one year in power, including the exclusion of many academics from membership on a government advisory board because of their opinions; his failure to fulfill his promise to modernize and reform the government bureaucracy; the failure of his campaign to save Japan’s service sector from the repercussions of COVID-19; and, finally, his failure to respond to popular demands to postpone the Summer Olympics, hosted by Tokyo this year. – Abdullah Al-Madani (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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