JAPAN | THE END IS NEAR: With conditions met, Kan to step down

Posted on August 11, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI | 11 August 2011

Prime Minister Naoto Kan informed Katsuya Okada, secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, on Aug. 9 that he would finally fulfill a promise made more than two months ago and resign immediately after two more bills that he had set as conditions passed the Diet.

He is expected to announce his resignation this month.

The DPJ and opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed on Aug. 9 to pass legislation to allow for the issuance of deficit-covering bonds. That bill was considered the toughest of the three conditions set by Kan to trigger his resignation, but with the opposition consenting to its passage, the prime minister has finally run out of tricks to extend his hold on power.

Kan was asked by reporters on the evening of Aug. 9 if he still intended to step down once the three conditions he had set were fulfilled.

“I will fulfill my responsibility for what I have said until now,” Kan responded.

After a meeting with his counterparts from the LDP and New Komeito at which agreement was reached on passing the bond issuance legislation, Okada also told reporters that Kan would resign.

Kan met with Okada at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence on Aug. 9, and the two agreed that the DPJ should begin preparations for a party presidential election. They also decided to seek a calendar that would allow for the selection of a new prime minister in the Diet after discussions were held with the opposition parties once a new DPJ president was elected to discuss how the rebuilding process after the natural disasters would progress, as well as what the new administration would seek to do.

Kan was asked at the Aug. 10 session of the Lower House Audit and Oversight of Administration Committee about his intention.

“After the two bills pass the Diet, I want to move toward putting into action what I have said I would do,” Kan said.

While he indicated he would resign as soon as the three conditions he set are met, including Diet passage of the bond issuance legislation as well as another special measures bill to promote renewable energy sources, Kan stopped short of setting a date for stepping down.

“I do not think it would be appropriate for me to speak about dates,” the prime minister said.

The third condition set by Kan, a second supplementary budget, has already passed the Diet.

In referring to measures to rebuild after the Great East Japan Earthquake and to handle the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Kan said, “The Cabinet has undertaken what had to be done, and we were also able to decide on a specific direction in dealing with the reform of the social security and taxation systems.”

He added that he felt no regret because his Cabinet had accomplished what it had to do.

Meanwhile, officials of the ruling and opposition parties were working furiously to ensure that the conditions set by Kan for his resignation would be met as soon as possible so that he could step down as early as this month.

The bond issuance bill passed the Lower House Financial Affairs Committee on Aug. 10 and is expected to pass the entire Lower House on Aug. 11. The legislation would then be sent to the Upper House.

The chairmen of the Upper House Diet Affairs Committees of the DPJ and LDP agreed in the morning of Aug. 10 to pass the legislation through the Upper House as early as Aug. 24.

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi also told reporters on Aug. 10 that his party would cooperate to ensure passage before the current Diet session ends on Aug. 31.

The DPJ as well as LDP and New Komeito were to hold discussions among their respective policy chiefs on Aug. 10 on revising the legislation to promote renewable energy sources so that it can also pass the Diet before the end of the month.

The LDP compiled its counterproposal for the renewable energy bill on Aug. 10. One of the two main points is to make the first three years after the law is enacted the period for promoting renewable energy sources. The second is to revise the law after three years while checking the basic energy plan to see how the law has been implemented until then.

Even as he realized he had no other moves left, Kan told reporters on Aug. 9 that he was happy the ruling and opposition parties had reached agreement on the bond issuance legislation.

Kan had expected the opposition parties to delay agreeing to the legislation because it could be used to pressure the DPJ-led government into dissolving the Lower House and calling a snap election.

When Hajime Ishii, a DPJ vice president, visited Kan on Aug. 3, the prime minister said, “The LDP is gradually raising the bar so I wonder if the bond issuance bill will pass.”

Kan likely felt that as long as the opposition parties delayed passage of the legislation he could further push moves to reduce dependence on nuclear energy to restore momentum to his administration.

However, a recent public opinion survey by The Asahi Shimbun found the support rating for the Kan Cabinet had fallen to its lowest level of 14 percent.

The decision by the LDP to approve the bond issuance bill was the final nail in Kan’s coffin.

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