Within hours of the sudden resignation of Japan's government Saturday, political factions began maneuvering to gain control.
But with no group holding a decisive hand and deep-seated animosities spread throughout Parliament, there was little certainty about who might emerge on top or how long the process might take. The formal business of choosing a leader will begin Monday and end - whenever.In the meantime, there appears to be little interest or will on the part of the Japanese politicians to confront the problems facing Japan. Members of several major political parties say recent conversations have focused almost exclusively on the pragmatic logistics of power.
Prime Minister Tsutumo Hata's decision Saturday to resign, rather than to call elections, placed the responsibility for choosing a new leader inside Parliament. He justified the move by saying that the result would spare the country from an extended political vacuum.
It also, however, ensures that the current array of politicians remains in Parliament - with no possibility of a majority government. An official with one of the core parties in the Hata coalition said that, because of the recent turmoil, fund-raising by political parties has been horrible and, as a result, no one wanted a costly open election now.
While business leaders hastily endorsed Hata's move, suggesting it was the best of many bad alternatives, two Cabinet members, Eijiro Hata, head of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Hirohisa Fujii, finance minister, both acknowledged that the resignation would hurt the domestic Japanese economy and efforts to reach an accord with the United States on trade.
Makoto Murata, head of the Japan Petrochemical Association, issued a statement saying that the current political difficulties would have an adverse effect on the yen.
During the past year, each time there has been a political crisis the yen has strengthened against the dollar, undermining the profitability of this country's many manufacturers.
The higher yen, say most economists, is a consequence of a broadly held sentiment that only a strong government would have the necessary leverage to open Japan up and reduce its vast trade surpluses.