PM contender urges Grand Coalition formation


Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda

TOKYO (majirox news) — Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, a front-runner to replace Prime Minister Naoto Kan as president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Aug. 13 urged the formation of a national unity government to help recover from the March 11 disasters.

“The ruling and opposition parties should have heart-to-heart discussions with each other and form a national salvation government,” Noda said told a TV Tokyo program. “I’d like to respond after seeking opinions from (the opposition) Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.”

Fellow contenders to replace Kan, who seems likely to resign from office within the end of this month, were more cautious.

Former Land and Infrastructure Minister Sumio Mabuchi said he would not exclude the idea of a grand coalition from a list of possible options, but it is unlikely to be a priority.

“Considering whether it’s a realistic possibility or not, a national unity government could end up slowing down the recovery process,” he said.

However, Former Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa, another of the growing group in the race to become DPJ leader, ruled out the idea of joining forces with opposition parties.

“We certainly need an All-Japan effort for recovery, but it can be done through cooperation outside of the Cabinet,” he said.

Kan’s approval rating has plummeted to around 15% following criticism of his handling of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Tohoku and subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis.

Kan promised he would step down following passage through the Diet of an extra budget for disaster reconstruction, a bill to help pay for it with new bonds, and a law to promote renewable energy.

The supplementary budget bill was enacted last month, and the DPJ and LDP agreed this week to pass the other two bills by Aug 26. Kan is expected to resign shortly after passage. His replacement as DPJ president is almost certain to succeed him as prime minister.

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