Japanese politicians are not known for their eloquence, and the country has a rich history of gaffes to keep the often dour debates in parliament lively. Today’s was wonderful.
In debate with opposition leader Sadakazu Tanigaki, Prime Minister Naoto Kan perhaps gave away just how much pressure he is feeling at the moment. Getting a taste of the big time, Tanigaki was referred to as prime minister by Kan.
“First of all, we heard from Prime Minister Tanigaki…er, sorry…” Kan said, after receiving criticism from Tanigaki over his handling of events in post March 11 Japan. In his defence, the Japanese word for president "sosai," is quite close to the word "sori" (prime minister).
Pressure is mounting on Kan, who has seen an increasing number of his own party members asking him to step down. More than 50 allies of Ichiro Ozawa, Kan’s main rival inside the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), are ready to back a no-confidence vote in the Parliament if the prime minister still refuses to resign.
Kan has seen his popularity slump recently, in light of the way he has implemented recovery measures during the ongoing nuclear crisis.
The Asahi newspaper writes that the 50 rebels would fall very short of the more than 70 DPJ member threshold needed by the opposition to pass the no-confidence motion in the lower house and force Kan to leave or call for a snap election.
"I think at the moment we have enough votes and that it’s more likely that the motion will pass," Kenko Matsuki, an ally of DPJ Ichiro Ozawa, said.
"But we want to find a way until the very end for Mr. Kan to take the decisive step, to resign on his own, so that we can prevent that from happening."
Minoru Morita, an independent analyst, said the pressure on Kan is rapidly mounting. “The number of DPJ rebels is growing," he said.
On the other hand, many analysts think that Kan has a good chance of surviving the no-confidence vote in the Parliament, expected on Thursday. This does not however mean that he would have a peaceful mandate from now on. Kan may receive fierce opposition in implementing his future policies, including an extra budget to pay for the rebuilding efforts after the March natural disasters.
It’s the second time this week that Kan has been "replaced" as prime minister, after former leader Taro Aso appeared in a cartoon with G-8 leaders in German newspaper Die Zeit.
[Reuters] Photo by MJ/TR