Japan PM survives no-confidence vote

Under fire from the opposition and members of his own party, Naoto Kan says he still could step down in six months.

Naoto Kan
Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan has pledged to move on from his position after recovery efforts finish [Reuters]

Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan has survived a no-confidence vote in parliament, but the unpopular leader will still struggle to break a policy deadlock given a split in his party and a divided parliament.

Earlier on Thursday Kan said that he would step down after handling issues related to his country’s triple disaster – the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.

Parliament’s lower house rejected the opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion by 293 votes to 152.

“Once the post-quake reconstruction efforts are settled, I will pass on my responsibility to younger generations,” he said.

“The nuclear crisis is ongoing, and I will make my utmost efforts to end the crisis and move forward with post-quake reconstruction works.”

Kan, who became prime minister just a year ago, has been criticised for delays in construction of temporary housing for evacuees from the March 11 disaster, lack of transparency about evacuation information, and a perceived lack of leadership.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Tokyo, said that Kan “addressed members of his [Democratic Party of Japan] and the public at large, apologising for the trouble he has caused”.

Our correspondent said Kan suggested political battles should wait and mentioned a likely time line of six months until his resignation.

Kan will likely struggle to forge deals with the opposition in a divided parliament, as the government tries to thrash out policies that rein in Japan’s rising public debt.

Political disagreements

On Wednesday, the largest opposition group, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), had submitted the no-confidence motion along with two smaller opposition groups.

Although Kan’s DPJ controls the powerful lower house of parliament, where the no-confidence motion was submitted, dozens of ruling party lawmakers have expressed concern with his leadership, creating a deep rift.

The DPJ rebels, who dislike his abrasive style and fear he is becoming an electoral liability, had wanted Kan to resign before the vote to pave the way for a coalition with the opposition to break a parliamentary logjam.

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The vote had been expected to be very close. One of the top power-brokers in Kan’s party announced on Wednesday he was going to support the opposition motion, a major blow to Kan.

The motion and the ruling party split have further complicated Kan’s efforts to unite the government behind his reconstruction plans, which involve a huge injection of funds and possibly tax increases.

March’s magnitude 9.0 quake and the massive tsunami that followed damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, and left 24,000 people are dead or missing. Another 80,000 residents have been forced to evacuate towns contaminated by the radiation-leaking plant.

In the 1990s, Kan was a crusading health minister who stood up to his own bureaucracy to lift the lid on a horrific AIDS scandal, but he was seen as an uninspiring prime minister even before the earthquake with a popularity rating below 20 per cent.

He emerged as prime minister last June only after other leaders of his party resigned. He already is Japan’s fifth leader in four years.
“Among possible scenarios the best one would be Prime Minister Kan voluntarily resigning and the DPJ forming a coalition with the LDP to stabilise politics,” Yasuo Yamamoto, a Japanese economist, said. “Unstable politics would weigh on stock prices and delay reconstruction after the disaster.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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