Japan’s Prime Minister Kan resigns

Naoto Kan

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 his 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.

“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, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, and Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano.

Source: BBC

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