The rebellion against Naoto Kan is far from over and a few more lawmakers are likely to get on the bandwagon, a Democratic Party of Japan source said Friday, fueling speculation the uprising within the party could force the prime minister to step down.
In a move highlighting the administration’s shaky foundation, a DPJ executive reportedly has asked a senior member of New Komeito to support bills needed to implement the fiscal 2011 budget in exchange for Kan’s resignation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano did not deny the report, saying only that party leaders are united in addressing a host of pressing issues.
Kan told reporters later he plans to stay in power.
“I have no intention of going back to ‘old politics’ in which (opposition parties) vote for or against (bills) in return for a change of leadership (in the majority party),” he said.
However, the DPJ source, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “The rebellion in the party will spread.”
The Liberal Democratic Party may submit a no-confidence motion against Kan’s Cabinet and exploit the deep rift in the DPJ, sources in the main opposition force said Friday.
Sixteen party members loyal to Kan nemesis Ichiro Ozawa said Thursday they want to leave the DPJ parliamentary group and form another group, but without leaving the party. The move was perceived as a message to party leaders that the lawmakers may abstain from voting on the budget-related bills.
If the 16 members’ threat is not hollow, the bills won’t clear the Diet even if the DPJ miraculously persuades the Social Democratic Party to get on board.
A key point is that all 16 rebellious DPJ members were elected in the proportional representation segment.
As a rule, DPJ members who run in electoral districts are listed at the top of the party’s proportional representation list, above proportional representation candidates.
In the DPJ’s landslide victory in 2009 amid high expectations for a change in government, many of the 16 were able to gain Diet seats even though they were listed at the bottom.
But because a landslide victory is not likely in the next election, they would probably lose their seats, leaving them free to take bold measures against the party’s leaders.
“There are still several more Ozawa followers who are elected from the proportional representation sector,” the DPJ source said. “In fact, they may have a better chance of being elected if they bolt from the party and form an Ozawa party.”
Rookie lawmakers aren’t the only ones rebelling against Kan. In a monthly magazine to be published Tuesday, former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi said he needs to part with DPJ members who are calling for a tax hike.
Haraguchi categorized party members who want to return to the starting point when the DPJ took power as “DPJ A” and those pushing for a tax hike without changing the current political and bureaucratic framework as “DPJ B.”
“We need to part with DPJ B,” Haraguchi says in the magazine, a copy of which The Japan Times obtained.
If Kan can’t clear the budget-related bills and resolve the party’s internal conflict, he is likely to step down in a month or two, analysts say.
“Kan has his back to the wall,” said Fukashi Horie, a former political science professor at Keio University. “If he can’t pass the budget-related bills, the administration will not be able to do anything.”
Horie recalled that when the DPJ, then an opposition party, refused for 60 days during Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s administration to deliberate bills in the opposition-controlled Upper House aimed at reconstructing financial organizations, Obuchi ended up swallowing the opposition’s proposal.
“But Kan can’t do that because there are too many policies that the two sides are opposed to,” including the monthly child allowance, the budget for the U.S. Futenma air base and whether to hike the consumption tax, Horie said. “He may choose to step down.”
The odds of Kan choosing to dissolve the Lower House for an election have gotten bigger, according to Horie, because he knows the DPJ is going to lose, and lose big.
Pundit Minoru Morita agrees, saying Kan may be forced to step down if the party does poorly in April local elections or even after Golden Week.
“But there isn’t any powerful candidate” to replace him, said Morita.