Kan a ‘lame duck’ prime minister?

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Update: The likelihood of Prime Minister Naoto Kan succumbing to strong pressure for his resignation by the end of this month increased June 13, following calls from within his own government for his rapid departure to avoid legislative deadlock, according to Kyodo News.

TOKYO (majirox news) – Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan is called a “lame duck” by opposition party leaders and some members in his own ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) despite surviving a no-confidence motion on June 2.

He has promised to step down as soon as the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is stabilized. Kan has been strongly criticized for his lack of leadership after the earthquake, tsunami and the ongoing nuclear disaster in northeast Japan.

Although the exact date of his resignation is still undecided, Kan hinted he would step down by August. High level bureaucrats and administrative vice-ministers are no longer meeting with Kan as they believe it is useless to discuss policy with a prime minister who is about to resign. He became prime minister a year ago and is Japan’s fifth leader in four years

“Appointments for meetings dropped significantly after Kan announced his future resignation,” a government official said. About 40 high-level bureaucrats visited Prime Minister Kan between May 19 and May 24 before the G8 Summit, which was held on May 26-27. From May 6 to May 12, 29 high-level bureaucrats visited Kan, according to the Asahi newspaper.

However, on June 2 Kan announced his intention to resign, and thereafter only five high-level bureaucrats visited him from June 3 to June 9. At this time, visits by the vice-ministers dropped to zero.

Tomohiko Taniguchi, a guest professor at Keio University in Tokyo and an analyst of Japanese politics, noted that over the past couple of weeks, the people closest to Kan have one by one started to say that enough is enough — a clear indication of how difficult the situation is for Kan.

Taniguchi added that when most of the people who have to brief Kan on a daily basis agree that they do not want to see him, it is a clear indication that Kan cannot run anything, let alone a huge government. “Kan has already become a lame duck,” he said.

Kan’s problem is unique because no one except those close to him really understands what the problem is, Taniguchi noted.

“The prime minister has to be someone with a vision and ideas and more importantly he has to be the best manager in town because the machine he is supposed to operate is by definition the most complex and biggest and it is not run by grease, electricity or oil, but by humankind,” Taniguchi told Majirox News.

Taniguchi says this has been a systemic issue ever since Kan took office. “Few bureaucrats have ever spoken openly about him for obvious reasons, which is why it has been difficult for ordinary people to understand what is wrong with this person.”

Other critics’ say that the longer Kan stays in office, the more it will hurt national interest as the political vacuum continues.

Kan’s cabinet is suffering from erosion in morale as well. For example, a cabinet member told the press that he visited Kan to declare his candidacy as the next prime minister. It was a joke, of course, but it showed Kan’s present status.

In the 1990s, Kan was a championing health minister who stood up to the bureaucracy and exposed the AIDS scandal. But he has since been perceived as an unimpressive prime minister even before the earthquake and his approval rating is now below 20 percent.

The press waiting for Kan on June 9 at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo, asked him as he walked by if he was going to stay on as prime minister until August.

Kan smiled and said, “The weather is good today” and then he walked away.

Link to Japan’s Political Chaos http://www.majiroxnews.com/2011/06/05/japans-political-chaos-3/


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2 Responses to Kan a ‘lame duck’ prime minister?

  1. mr bond on 06/11/2011 at 3:20 pm

    Kan’s perceived lame duckery was alluded to first to my knowledge by Gerry Curtis of Columbia. That was on June 2 at a meeting with two of us at Ark Hills Club. I had the feeling then that Gerry was only too correct or likely to be. The media and the bureaucracy have, in a sense, shown inordinate patience in not calling for Kan to pack it in weeks ago. To my mind turning point came on about March 13, and the bigger question has been who then will survive. I fear it is true that up to the early 1970s there were a few giants around, and the rest of us stood on their shoulders, leaving little space for each other. With the disgrace of Kaku-san, we were left with Nakasone-san,and with his premiership in the 1980s we entered that amazing period when three heads of government –in Japan, the US and the UK–combined to face down the Soviet Union. Since then,have we had coherent leadership in Tokyo? I wonder what Nakasone-san, now in his early 90s, has to say. Or those around him. He is said to be clear of mind, if ancient as the hills. Failing him, or with him nominally in power I would look for someone in his 30s or 40s at most who has the guts and the knowledge to run this country. It must be someone who understands the United States and does not feel in liege to our cousins in America. Someone who is basically more interested in Asia than anything else. Should be fluent in Chinese.

  2. Eli on 06/11/2011 at 9:22 pm

    I can’t believe that they’re already wanting Kan to step down. When was the last time Japan had a PM that lasted for even two years? I remember Bill Clinton saying that in 8 years of Presidency he had to meet 7 different Japanese PMs. It should be an embarassment to this country that they don’t allow even perceived failure.

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