JAPAN | Kan likely to quit by end of August, positive signs on horizon, says foreign expert

Posted on July 20, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 20 July 2011

Gerald Curtis, professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, speaks at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo on July 20. (Mainichi)

Gerald Curtis, professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, speaks at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo on July 20. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Naoto Kan is likely to step down by the end of August as he has failed to demonstrate leadership and many fellow lawmakers within his ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) want him to resign, a longtime analyst of Japanese politics said on July 20.

“Kan will be gone by the end of August but he may not go quietly,” said Gerald Curtis, professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ). “This is totally a dysfunctional government … and the party (DPJ) is in disarray.”

For the first time in his 45-year career as a scholar of Japanese politics, Curtis said he recognizes that “the public is uniform in its view that politics is just awful.” He said, “This cannot go on forever this way. Something is going to blow because the extent of public disgust is quite extreme.”

According to the American professor, Kan tends to be infatuated with new ideas such as a sales tax hike, the Trans-Pacific Partnership scheme and an antinuclear and renewable energy policy and makes announcements about the plans before abruptly dropping them when the tide turns against him.

In relating talks with Japanese politicians, Curtis said he thinks Japan has to go beyond nuclear power. “This country is small, the earthquake situation is too dangerous. You cannot afford to take the risk of another Fukushima Daiichi,” he said, referring to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

Curtis said the “unprecedented political vacuum” in Tokyo had had several political consequences, including “the emergence of really interesting, effective local political leaders” in such disaster-hit regions and other parts of the country.

He also said he has noticed “a new level of activism on the part of the private sector that is a reflection of a total loss of confidence in the government, political leadership and bureaucracy.”

Curtis has made four trips to areas affected by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis. He came to the FCCJ before leaving for Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, in the afternoon. (By Shiro Yoneyama, Staff Writer)

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