Tokyo: Japan may have a new leader by the
end of the month, its sixth in five years, newspapers said
today, as embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he would
Kan, who took office in June last year, is under intense
pressure from the conservative opposition and some members of
his own party to step down over his handling of the March 11
quake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.
Support for his cabinet has fallen to around 15 percent,
the lowest level since his centre-left party took power almost
two years ago, when it ended a half-century of conservative
reign in a landslide election.
Kan, 64, promised weeks ago that he would step aside once
three laws are passed -- an extra budget for disaster
reconstruction, a bill to help finance it with new bonds, and
a law to promote renewable energy.
The supplementary budget bill was enacted last month, and
the two major parties have agreed this week to also pass the
other two bills by August 26, paving the way for Kan to leave
Kan today told parliament that, once the two bills are
approved, "we have to swiftly start moving to the next stage".
"For the party, it will mean a leadership election. Once
the new party leader is decided, obviously I will have to step
down as prime minister. We will enter that phase."
Senior officials of his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
have been pushing ahead with plans to replace Kan as party
leader and therefore as Japan`s premier, the Nikkei financial
daily said earlier.
"The possibility that the prime minister will resign by
the end of the month has grown," said the newspaper, while the
Mainichi daily also said that top DPJ officials aimed to
designate a new prime minister this month.
The Nikkei quoted an unnamed cabinet minister as saying
that "one idea is to hold a leadership election on August 28".
Japanese media have mentioned Finance Minister Yoshihiko
Noda as a leading candidate for the top job.
Noda, 54, is a fiscal hawk who has steered the world`s
number three economy through turmoil for over a year and
stepped into currency markets to bring down the strong yen,
which hurts exporters.
Noda signalled his candidacy with an essay titled "my
government plan" in the Bungei Shunju conservative monthly
today, pledging fiscally prudent policies to whittle down
Japan`s public debt mountain.
Sumio Mabuchi, who was transport minister when Japan was
embroiled last year in a bitter territorial island row with
China, is also seen as a possible candidate.
Public opinion polls have favoured the former
high-profile foreign minister Seiji Maehara, but he has not
yet clearly voiced his intentions.