Not the time for infighting

Voices critical of Prime Minister Naoto Kan appear to be getting louder within the Democratic Party of Japan. One cannot give high marks to Mr. Kan for his performance as the nation’s leader in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Even so, as Japan faces the difficult task of reconstruction and bringing the nuclear accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under control, DPJ politicians should realize that now is not the time for intraparty bickering.

It has been reported that on April 12, former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa hinted to DPJ lawmakers close to him that he may support a no-confidence motion against Mr. Kan if the Liberal Democratic Party submits such a motion to the Diet. He reportedly said that a “no-confidence motion is the only way to get Prime Minister Kan to resign.”

In an unusual move, Upper House President Takeo Nishioka, who is supposed to be politically neutral because of his position, contributed an article to the Yomiuri Shimbun’s May 19 issue in which he severely criticized Mr. Kan.

He wrote, “Prime Minister Kan, you should resign immediately” and “perhaps you have no self-awareness of your duty related to state affairs as prime minister.”

On May 25, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama criticized Mr. Kan for his handling of the nuclear crisis, praised Mr. Ozawa for his readiness to take decisive action, and hinted at the possibility that he may support a no-confidence motion against Mr. Kan. Mr. Hatoyama later toned down on the last point.

DPJ lawmakers should pay attention to the fact that more than 100,000 victims of the March 11 disasters are still living in temporary shelters, and work to remove debris from the devastated areas is moving slowly.

Although the current Diet session ends June 22, a bill to issue bonds necessary for implementation of the initial 2011 budget and a separate bill to lay down principles for the reconstruction have no prospects of being enacted soon.

DPJ lawmakers must unite to move the government work forward. For his part, Mr. Kan must involve DPJ politicians outside his inner circle in important policy-related tasks to restore unity in the ruling party.