Bloomberg News

Japan Extends Parliamentary Session as Kan Aims to Prolong Term

June 22, 2011

June 22 (Bloomberg) -- Japan extended parliament’s session until the end of August, enabling Prime Minister Naoto Kan to try and achieve his legislative goals before fulfilling a pledge to step down.

The lower house lengthened the term that was scheduled to end today by 70 days, as proposed by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party had sought a shorter extension of 50 days.

The length of the session may be an indication of how long Kan, who is under pressure from inside and outside the DPJ to step down, remains in office. DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada today failed to win opposition backing for Kan’s agenda, which includes legislation to fund a second stimulus plan to rebuild from the March earthquake and tsunami.

“The DPJ’s conflict is deepening,” said Atsuo Ito, an independent political analyst. “There’s no guarantee Mr. Kan will step down after 70 days while most DPJ members want him out. The political vacuum will continue for a while.”

Kan is seeking to pass a second reconstruction package of about 2 trillion yen ($25 billion), as well as legislation authorizing 44.3 trillion yen in government bonds to fund the world’s largest debt. He is also promoting a renewable energy bill in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant which was crippled by the quake and tsunami.

No LDP-DPJ Agreement

Okada met with officials in the LDP and the New Komeito party, who declined to give their support for any of the legislation. Okada said a third stimulus bill was likely to be drafted by “a new regime.” He declined to say whether that meant under a new prime minister.

“There’s been no final written agreement by the three parties,” Okada said, adding that “extending the session and the timing over when the prime minister will change are separate issues.”

Kan survived a June 2 no-confidence vote after pledging to quit at an unspecified time. His approval rating was 31 percent, according to a Yomiuri newspaper poll published June 6. Almost 80 percent of voters said they don’t trust the government’s pronouncements on the nuclear crisis. The DPJ was supported by 25 percent of respondents, while 19 percent backed the LDP. The paper polled 1,057 people and provided no margin of error.

Former DPJ premier Yukio Hatoyama called on Kan to step down by the end of this month and allies such as Okada and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano have sought to limit his tenure. LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki has repeatedly called on Kan to resign immediately.

While the LDP backed the first stimulus, it has called for Kan to step down as a condition for supporting additional legislation. The LDP also refused to pass bills allowing the sale of the deficit-covering bonds to help fund about 40 percent of this year’s budget.

--Editors: John Brinsley, Peter Hirschberg

To contact the reporters on this story: Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at Ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net; Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at thirokawa@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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