Japan PM Naoto Kan announces resignation amid criticism


Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan making his announcement

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Japan's beleaguered Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced his resignation, clearing the way for the country's sixth leader in five years.

Mr Kan has been criticised for failing to show leadership after the devastating 11 March earthquake and tsunami, and ensuing nuclear crisis.

In June, Mr Kan pledged to quit if parliament passed three key pieces of legislation, which it did on Friday.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan will choose a new leader on Monday.

Mr Kan's successor as party head will almost certainly become Japan's next prime minister.

Challenges ahead

Mr Kan announced his decision to stand down at a DPJ meeting, which was broadcast to the nation. He is expected to give a news conference later on Friday.

Looking back on nearly 15 months in office, Mr Kan said he had done all he could given the difficulties he faced, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and political infighting - including within his own party.

Japan's revolving door

  • Naoto Kan (Jun 10-Aug 11) Lost support over handling of earthquake aftermath
  • Yukio Hatoyama (Sep 09-Jun 10) Failed to keep election promise on Okinawa US base
  • Taro Aso (Sep 08-Sep 09) Famed for verbal gaffes, lost election
  • Yasuo Fukuda (Sep 07-Sep 08) Struggled to pass laws, after DPJ took control of upper house
  • Shinzo Abe (Sep 06-Sep 07) Unpopular government hit by scandal

"Under the severe circumstances, I feel I've done everything that I had to do," he said. "Now I would like to see you choose someone respectable as a new prime minister."

The 64-year-old's resignation had been widely expected, and comes amid tumbling public support.

On 2 June he won a no confidence vote in the Diet (parliament), only by making a promise to step down at a future date.

The Diet passed the final two bills out of three earlier on Friday - one on the budget, the other promoting renewable energy - which he had set as a condition for his departure.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo says the new prime minister will have to oversee the biggest reconstruction effort in Japan since WWII and resolve the nuclear crisis at Fukushima where reactors are still leaking radiation.

They will also have to persuade the markets that Japan can overcome a divided parliament to address the biggest national debt in the industrialised world, our correspondent says.

Seiji Maehara, a hawk on China who argues for pursuing growth before raising taxes to restore the nation's fiscal health, is favourite among the public.

But the decision will be made by the governing party's Diet members.

Reports in Japan say Ichiro Ozawa, who leads the biggest faction despite the suspension of his party membership over a political funding scandal, is unlikely to support the former foreign minister.

Other possible successors include Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Trade Minister Banri Kaieda.

Slow recovery

The twin natural disasters claimed more than 15,700 lives, and more than 4,500 people remain unaccounted for. Survivors in Japan's devastated north-east have complained about slow recovery efforts.

The resulting crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is the world's worst nuclear accident in a generation.

Three of the six reactors melted down after the tsunami and 9.0-magnitude quake wrecked cooling systems.

The opposition and many in Mr Kan's own party said he failed to show leadership in the crisis, and was too slow in acknowledging the severity of the disaster.

The crisis also revealed serious flaws in the nuclear industry's regulatory systems and safety standards.

Workers are continuing to bring the plant to a cold shutdown by January.

However, nearly six months on many of the 80,000 people who were evacuated from the area are living in temporary housing or shelters, with no indication of when or if they will be able to return home.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    One always hopes that the Government takes care of the people first, but as shown in so many cases it is not, unfortunately. Politicians are more involved with their own games and corruptions, Japan is not different. With the Japan save face mentality the one in fron t gets always the kick from everybody behind. That leaves me with only one last thing to say, Japan a country of brown shoes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    This seems pretty typical of the Japanese political system where generally speaking the PM gets made a scapegoat under the problems at hand. With the previous PM, he was basically sacrificed for going against government promises to remove the US base from Okinawa. What's going on here is typical of the last 10 years, with parties trying to save face as a whole by sacrificing an individual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    People the world over are realizing how truly corrupt and impotent their politicians are and they are taking over the reins. As the government becomes ever more irrelevant in people's lives, good people will step up and demand justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Mr. Kan is the 6th PM to go in 5 years. You'd think Japan is a rich, calm and thoughtful and well-ordered nation, but it ain't necessarily so. This country has a totally dysfunctional political system that has making an appalling mess of the economy, the pensions, the nuclear power, you name it. One wonders where this is going to end and let's all pray their army (or lack of it) stays as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Democratic Party of Japan attempt to give Right of foreigners to vote.

    So I hope to elect and change the Government party.

    Since Democratic Party of Japan gets the Government party,from evaluation of Japan have been going down think.

    I hope next leader that solve a problem of a territorial dispute about Russia Chine and Korea.


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