Any DPJ ranks who join motion face punishment

Kan’s foes readying no-confidence vote

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

The opposition camp stepped up efforts Tuesday to bring down Prime Minister Naoto Kan, preparing to submit a vote of no confidence against him as early as Wednesday.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito are ready to jointly submit the motion, and most of the other opposition parties have already voiced their support.

The decision comes at a time when public trust in the Kan Cabinet is in the basement over the way it has handled the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Dissatisfaction with Kan is also high within the Democratic Party of Japan.

During a Lower House committee session in the morning, former LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa lashed out directly at Kan, urging him to step down.

Nakagawa referred to a recent media poll in which 80 percent of the respondents said they did not trust the government’s announcements over the damaged plant, many of which have been based on information provided by Tepco.

“I can hardly bear to look at you, clinging onto power,” Nakagawa said. “If you still can’t let go of your attachment to power, I believe it is the Diet’s political mission to make you step down with a vote of no confidence.”

Kan declared he doesn’t intend to resign, saying it is his administration’s responsibility to deal with the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami and to resolve the nuclear crisis. Despite the disaster-related national crisis he is confronting, Kan, as DPJ president, has the authority to dissolve the Lower House and call an election.

“I cannot abandon my responsibilities right now,” Kan said. “It is my responsibility to resolve the nuclear accident at any cost. . . . And I am prepared to fulfill my duties.”

Under normal circumstances, the DPJ and its minor ally, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), could count on their Lower House majority to shoot down any no-confidence motion.

But some DPJ lawmakers close to indicted former party leader Ichiro Ozawa have said they may turn against Kan and side with the opposition camp.

Ozawa has reportedly also warned he may support the no-confidence motion.

Around 80 ruling bloc lawmakers would need to sign on for the motion, assuming that all opposition elements except the Social Democratic Party side with it.

Although it is unclear whether that many would actually turn against Kan, DPJ executives are trying to prevent such moves by threatening harsh retaliation, including expulsion from the party.

At a meeting Monday, party executives agreed that any DPJ lawmaker who votes for the motion or abstains would face tough punishment.