Japan Upper House Censures 2 Ministers, Adding Pressure on Kan

Japan’s opposition-controlled upper house censured two Cabinet ministers last night, the latest blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan as his public approval rating dwindles.

Non-binding motions urged Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi to resign over their handling of the collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese Coast Guard vessels near islands claimed by both nations. Kyodo News earlier reported the motions had passed.

Opposition criticism of Kan’s administration and leadership has eroded public support for his Democratic Party of Japan-led government. The Liberal Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, has threatened to boycott parliament, while the current legislative session may end Dec. 3 with about a dozen bills left unapproved.

“Kan may have to shift Sengoku and Mabuchi to other posts in a Cabinet reshuffle as early as December,” said Hirotada Asakawa, an independent political analyst based in Tokyo. “But this may further damage his popularity, and Kan will be more and more driven toward a dead end.”

Minoru Yanagida resigned as justice minister this week after reportedly telling constituents he didn’t know why he was appointed and the job needs only two phrases: “I’d like to refrain from commenting on individual cases,” and “We’re responding to the case in accordance with the law.”

Public approval of Kan’s Cabinet fell to 23.6 percent, down 9.1 percentage points from early this month, Kyodo News reported Nov. 24, citing its own poll.

Support for the ruling DPJ fell below the opposition LDP for the first time under Kan’s leadership, at 22.1 percent to 24.6 percent.

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