Kan Offers Future Resignation as Party Faces Possible Defeat

Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered to resign in the coming months, speaking hours before a parliamentary vote that failed to bring down his government.

Mr. Kan said at a meeting of his Democratic Party of Japan Thursday that he would like to hand over power to a younger generation once the prospects for dealing with the consequences of a March 11 earthquake become more clear.

Pressure has been building for the resignation of Mr. Kan amid widespread dissatisfaction with his handling of the earthquake clean-up and the resulting Fukushima nuclear crisis. Dozens of party members said they would join the opposition in the no-confidence vote, leaving analysts uncertain whether it would pass.

In the end however, most DPJ members rallied behind Mr. Kan and the motion was defeated on a vote of 293 to 152. Mr. Kan had said he would dissolve parliament and order new elections if the vote succeeded.

The opposition submitted the motion Wednesday evening, charging that Mr. Kan has failed to show leadership in the handling of the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. Opinion polls show the public shares that view, with Mr. Kan's approval rating consistently standing below 30 percent.

But few look forward to new elections, which would complicate Japan's efforts to deal with the massive job of rebuilding after the nation's worst earthquake and a resulting tsunami. The country is also struggling to cope with a massive public debt.

Many members of Mr. Kan's party would prefer to form a coalition with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, enabling the country to confront its challenges with a united government.

In his remarks Thursday morning, Mr. Kan said he feels that he still must fulfill his obligations to the Japanese people.

But, he said, once the prospects for dealing with the earthquake become clear and he has been able to fulfill his obligations to a significant degree, he would like to hand over many of his responsibilities.