DPJ Leaders Seek to Limit Kan’s Tenure as Pressure to Quit Grows

Japan's Prime Minister Kan and DPJ Secretary General Okada
Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister, left, speaks with Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), during a meeting with lawmakers of the DPJ, at the Diet in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

Senior lawmakers of Japan’s ruling party sought to limit Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s tenure in office amid internal divisions over his promise to step down at an unspecified time.

Kan made the pledge to appease dissidents in his Democratic Party of Japan and defeat a June 2 parliamentary no-confidence vote, then suggested he might stay on until early next year. DPJ lawmakers including ex-premier Yukio Hatoyama denounced the move, saying Kan lacks the popular support needed to pass legislation for rebuilding from the March natural disasters and nuclear crisis.

DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada, a Kan ally, said yesterday he would ask him to step down if the time frame is “distant” from the consensus. The day before, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Kan won’t “linger around much longer.”

“He clearly said he’ll step down after a certain resolution to the crisis, so the rest is up to the prime minister,” Okada said yesterday on Fuji Television’s Shin Hodo 2001 program. “Debating resignation dates isn’t in the nation’s interest.”

Kan will quit by August at the latest, Kyodo News reported late on June 4, without saying where it obtained the information.

“It’s my responsibility” to stay on until completion of a cold shutdown of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, Kan said after the vote. Facility owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it aims to stabilize the facility by January.

Obama Meeting Undecided

Edano, speaking on TV Tokyo, said on June 4 that Kan hasn’t decided whether he will meet U.S. President Barack Obama as scheduled in September.

Asked if Kan aims to stay until January, Edano said the remark about overseeing the shutdown of the Fukushima reactors “wasn’t an indication of when he would step down.”

Kan should resign this month, Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary general of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, said on NHK Television yesterday. He needs to step down “as soon as possible” so that ruling and opposition parties can work on rebuilding the economy after the March 11 disaster, he said.

Some 53 percent of voters view a coalition between the DPJ and LDP as the best government once Kan steps down, a poll by the Asahi newspaper released on June 4 showed. The same percentage expressed dissatisfaction with the premier’s comments on his resignation plans. The newspaper did not provide a margin of error. Kan’s approval rating was little changed at 28 percent, the paper said.

Political Bickering

Political bickering over Kan’s fate risks prolonging rebuilding efforts, affecting tens of thousands of victims whose lives have been disrupted by the March disasters. Kan won approval for a 4 trillion yen ($50 billion) extra budget to devote to reconstruction from damages the government estimates could swell to 25 trillion yen.

Hatoyama on June 4 said he had reached an agreement for Kan to step down once a second stimulus plan is drafted, a process he said would probably happen before the end of the month. The next day, Hatoyama said that if Kan “doesn’t keep his promise, he’s a swindler.”

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