Under pressure because of policy missteps and a financial scandal, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced Wednesday that he was resigning in order to give his Democratic Party a chance at a fresh start.
Hatoyama's most immediate problem was his loss of support after he failed to keep a campaign promise to get the U.S. to move the Marine base in Okinawa. Hatoyama appeared to renege on that vow when last week, he and President Barack Obama announced plans to keep the base that's very controversial in Japan where it is.
Hatoyama's resignation was such a surprise that the following two headlines could be found with Wednesday's date on the web site of a major Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun.
"Hatoyama clings to post as calls grow for him to quit"
"Hatoyama to step down"
Hatoyama's departure came less than nine months after he and his left-of-center party came to power in a historic election that sent the previously long dominant Liberal Democratic Party, which is actually conservative despite its name, to the political wilderness.
Initially, the Stanford University-trained engineer was very popular as he promised change to what many viewed as a moribund political system.
But his popularity waned over time as Japanese voters sensed he couldn't deliver on his promises to shakeup Japan's political system, especially the elite bureaucrats who run the government and the country.
His political capital was further eroded by political money scandals in which aides to Hatoyama and the secretary general of his party, Ichiro Ozawa, were indicted. Hatoyama asked for and secured Ozawa's resignation, too.
Hatoyama's acquiescence to U.S. desires to keep the Marine base at Okinawa was the last straw for many Japanese voters, driving his approval ratings to around 20 percent.