JAPAN | Kan set to resign by end of August

Posted on June 22, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 22 June 2011

In this March 25, 2011 photo, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan gives a speech during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, two weeks after a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Naoto Kan is set to resign by the end of August after securing parliamentary passage of the second extra budget and a bill needed for the government to issue deficit-covering bonds for fiscal 2011, a ruling party heavyweight said Tuesday.

The Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Kan, and major opposition parties have finally struck a basic deal on the timing of his resignation after weeks of wrangling, the senior lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

The DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party agreed that the third extra budget for the year started April, which will be much bigger than the first and second ones to finance the rebuilding of areas hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will not be crafted under the leadership of Kan, lawmakers said.

Currently, the DPJ-led government is planning to submit the third supplementary budget to the Diet between mid-August and early September.

Even a day before the scheduled end of the parliamentary session, political jousting over the timing of Kan’s resignation continued until the last minute.

DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada told his counterparts from the two opposition parties that the DPJ wants to extend the session for around 70 days, according to the lawmakers.

LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara told Okada that the party will study whether it can accept the proposed length of the extension, the lawmakers said.

Kan, criticized for his perceived lack of leadership, made a last stand to remain in power as long as possible despite relentless pressure for him to step down soon from both ruling and opposition party lawmakers.

Kan was persuaded by many senior DPJ lawmakers to step down in July in exchange for winning opposition cooperation on the passage of the second extra budget and the bill to enable the government to secure around 40 percent of the revenue planned in the annual budget.

But the embattled premier showed strong determination to also pass a bill aimed at promoting the use of renewable energy in the coming months.

At a late night meeting with Okada, Kan eventually offered a compromise, saying he would accept the idea of prolonging the Diet session until the end of August and step down without being in charge of formulating the third supplementary budget, the lawmakers said.

The basic agreement between the three parties states that the LDP and New Komeito would cooperate with the DPJ in bringing the energy bill to a vote at an early date but does not guarantee its passage during the Diet session.

But a lawmaker close to Kan said that this does not mean that the premier has given up on his ambition to pass the bill.

“The premier will not let his top post go before its passage,” the lawmaker said, noting that Kan’s determination is strong in the wake of the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Okada had previously told the two opposition parties that the DPJ would extend the Diet session for about 50 days, instead of around 120 days as proposed on Monday, in an effort to take into account their concerns that Kan could cling to power longer than necessary.

LDP lawmakers had said that the DPJ needed to make clearer when Kan would be replaced and passage of the energy bill should not be used as a bargaining tool.

New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi told a news conference that the Diet needs to conduct careful debate on the bill aimed at introducing a tariff system to oblige utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable energy at fixed prices.

The energy bill was submitted to the House of Representatives on April 5. But it has yet to be debated by lawmakers in the Diet.

In early June, Kan survived a no-confidence motion by promising to turn over his job to the younger generation once certain progress is made in reconstructing the disaster-stricken region and tackling the nuclear crisis. But he has not said exactly when.

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Posted in: JAPAN