“I think it’s desirable to have future energy policies based on the will of citizens, but when it comes to the matter of whether I am going to ask them or not ask them, I have not given it a single thought,” Kan told the Diet on Friday.
The prime minister was responding to a question from the opposition Your Party’s Mito Kakizawa, who wanted to know if Kan intended to dissolve the Diet and hold a House of Representatives general election with the battle to focus on energy policies amid growing anti-nuclear sentiment in the wake of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Popularity polls have Kan and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan likely to cop the brunt of the voter backlash over handling of the March 11 disasters when a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Tohoku and was followed shortly afterward by a massive tsunami. The disasters have claimed more than 20,000 lives and also sparked meltdowns in three core reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which continues to leak radiation and is yet to be placed under control.
Kan has promised to resign, but has made his departure conditional upon passage through the Diet of a series of bills about a bond issue, creation of a second supplementary budget and renewable energies.
Earlier in the week, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, a close Kan ally, also dismissed the idea of the prime minister going to the polls.
“I don’t think he’s gone that daft,” Sengoku said upon being asked about speculation Kan would dissolve the Diet to bring the fight over energy policies before voters. “There are so many things that need to be done on a national scale at the moment we can’t be talking about an early election.”
Opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members, meanwhile, are jostling for position to prepare for the next election. The LDP’s latest move has been to set up another committee on energy issues, this one headed by Ichita Yamamoto, a politician known for having few ties to the energy industry.
“We’re going to review all sorts of policies from a zero base. We’ll inspect all past LDP energy policies and rethink areas that need to be rethought,” Yamamoto said at the committee’s first meeting on July 5.
Last month another energy committee formed within the LDP formed mainly by members who support continuation of the party’s long-term commitment to nuclear power generation.