As the ruling Democratic Party of Japan scrambled to get back on its feet Monday a day after voters took away the coalition’s Upper House majority, the blame game was quick to commence and the two key targets were Prime Minister Naoto Kan and DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano.
DPJ lawmakers reportedly demanded a shakeup in the party’s leadership, including the resignation of Kan and Edano.
Despite the election drubbing the DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) ruling bloc suffered, Kan was quick to say he plans to remain in his post and wants the party’s No. 2 man to do the same.
“I’d like to get back to the starting line and continue taking charge of the government with responsibility,” Kan said in the early hours of Monday after most of the election results were in.
“The (DPJ) executives worked very hard for this election, and I’d like them to continue fulfilling their roles,” he said when asked if the party leadership should be overhauled.
Edano has also indicated he plans to stay in his post, at Kan’s request. The secretary general runs the election campaigns for party candidates.
“I accept with sincerity the voices I hear from many corners,” Edano said at a news conference Monday after meeting with DPJ executives, including Kan.
“But the prime minister has ordered me to fulfill my responsibility” as secretary general, he said.
“I intend to follow his orders and work (to meet) the public’s expectations,” Edano said, adding other DPJ executives confirmed their unity at the meeting.
Meanwhile, responding to calls for a Cabinet reshuffle, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said Kan is unlikely to tinker with the lineup until September, when he will seek re-election as DPJ president.
Sengoku also said it is desirable that Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who lost her Diet seat Sunday, will retain her portfolio until September.
“From the perspective of proceeding with the government’s work, it is desirable” that she stay on, Sengoku said.
The election saw 437 candidates vying for 121 seats, with the DPJ losing out to its main rival, the Liberal Democratic Party, which won 51 seats compared with the 38 it had going in.
The DPJ won 44 seats out of the 54 it had that were up for re-election.
And to make matters worse, Kokumin Shinto failed to win any seats.
This will force Kan to reach out to other forces willing to join the coalition, lest legislative gridlock ensues.
Besides lacking an Upper House majority, the DPJ is also short of the two-thirds majority in the Lower House needed to swiftly override any Upper House rejection of legislation.
But with the party rocked by internal revolt, the future of the DPJ-led government is cloudy.
Potential allies include Yoshimi Watanabe’s Your Party, which garnered strong support from voters during the election, picking up an impressive 10 seats.
But so far Watanabe has only indicated his party may cooperate on a policy-by-policy basis, and has maintained a noncommittal stance.
Another option may be forming a grand coalition with the LDP or New Komeito, although many DPJ lawmakers would oppose this. The LDP is meanwhile set to collaborate with other opposition parties to strengthen its Upper House clout.
LDP Secretary General Tadamori Oshima said, however, that his party has yet to consider a candidate for Upper House president, an important position the opposition camp wants to wrest from the DPJ.
“We will call out to other opposition parties and independents as much as possible and work together in areas where we share common goals,” Oshima told a news conference.
But “we have not decided what we are going to do about (picking) the president of the Upper House, nor have we had any concrete discussions about it.”
Oshima, who served as LDP Diet affairs chief in the previous divided Diet, said the LDP intends to engage in thorough deliberations on bills and could cooperate with the DPJ if there is legislation they agree on.
LDP executives met in the afternoon and decided to hold onto their posts until September, the end of their one-year term.