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Prime Minister talks elections, not plans for stepping down

Date Posted: 2011-08-03

Naoto Kan’s got his eye on the future, and that includes calling elections for both the Lower House of Representatives and the Upper House of the Diet.

The Japanese Prime Minister says he has no intention of dissolving the Lower House, and denies any plans for calling snap elections in the near future, telling lawmakers his focus is on bringing the nation back from the disastrous spring earthquake and tsunami, and on ending the nation’s reliance on nuclear power.

Kan, who has repeatedly promised to step down as Prime Minister sometime this summer, is showing no signs of a leader who’s getting ready to quit. “’What we must do first is restore and reconstruct the disaster area and resolve the nuclear plant accident,” Kan explained to a Lower House committee studying disaster zone reconstruction. He indicated full awareness that any notion of calling elections while the country is trying to recover from the March 11th disaster would enrage the public.

“I think it is fine to hold a double election,” he said referring to 2013. “I don’t think dissolving the Lower House would reflect public sentiment.” Upper House elections must by law be held in July 2013, but the Prime Minister has authority to dissolve the Lower House and call general elections at any time. If Kan doesn’t choose to do that, Lower House members elected in August 2009 face reelection not later than August 2013.

Kan’s focus on elections has irritated opposition lawmakers, who say the Prime Minister’s done enough, and should be making arrangements to step down, and not be thinking about government actions and policies two years from now. “You can’t trust the words of a prime minister who has expressed his intention to resign,” says New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, “even if he makes comments about dissolving the House in a couple years.”

The Liberal Democratic Party’s secretary general, Nobuteru Ishihara, says the LDP may consider a non-binding censure motion in the Upper House, because “I think it is the responsibility of the ruling party to have Prime Minister Kan step down as soon as possible, and choose a new leader.” He was emphatic that Kan’s refusal to step down “is damaging the nation’s interests, and if the DPJ doesn’t (make him step down), we have to do something.”

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