Japan minister quits, but hurdles remain for PM Kan

Japan`s justice minister Yanagida caused outrage by saying his job was easy.

Tokyo: Japan`s justice minister resigned on Monday in an effort to avoid a gaffe delaying the enactment of an extra budget through a divided Parliament, but hurdles remain for struggling Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Japan`s Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida caused outrage by saying his job was easy.

The latest woe to hit Kan`s government, remarks by Minoru Yanagida that critics said made light of parliamentary deliberations, had threatened to delay a JPY 4.4 trillion (USD 52.7 billion) extra budget to bolster an economy beset by deflation and a strong yen.

"We need to pass the extra budget as soon as possible for the people`s livelihoods, so I offered to resign after speaking to the Prime Minister," Yanagida told a news conference.

Analysts said Yanagida`s resignation was unlikely to be a game-changer for Kan`s government, although the affair is hardly a plus for an administration whose voter ratings are already sagging below 30 percent.

"The fact that he is quitting probably means that deliberations on the (extra) budget are in sight," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University.

"It`s in sight, but it could be halted again if something happens, and we can`t be optimistic ... The fundamental issues have not been resolved and talks between the ruling and opposition parties are not working."

Support for the five-month-old government has been eroded by voter discontent with Kan`s handling of territorial rows with China and Russia and a funding scandal dogging a ruling party powerbroker.

A survey by the Mainichi newspaper released on Monday showed support for Kan`s government at 26 percent, down 23 points from the previous poll in October, and 71 percent of respondents said Yanagida should resign over his gaffe.

In the poll, 20 percent of the respondents said they supported Kan`s ruling Democratic Party, down 11 points from the last poll, while 18 percent said they supported the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), up 4 points.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a parliamentary committee he will take on the justice portfolio in addition to his role as the government`s No 2.

Bureau Report