Tohoku locals and Tokyoites reacted with relief Thursday after Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet survived a no-confidence vote, averting a political vacuum for now, but criticized opposition parties for submitting the motion and the Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers who threatened to or did back it.
The motion was voted down Thursday afternoon. If it had passed, either the Cabinet would have had to resign or Kan would have had to dissolve the Lower House, leaving the political helm unattended and potentially slowing the rebuilding of quake- and tsunami-hit Tohoku.
“If those politicians have time to get in each other’s way, I want them to come to Fukushima and stabilize the nuclear plant’s situation,” said a 25-year-old businessman from Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, where the radiation-leaking Fukushima No. 1 plant is located. The man, who declined to be named, now lives in an evacuation center in Tamura, also in Fukushima.
Eiichi Sato, 69, whose house was destroyed in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, said opposition parties “do not think of the scale of this disaster. I would understand if they submitted a no-confidence motion after (the ruling and opposition parties) work together to overcome the disaster. Now is not the time to fight.”
Still, some Tohoku locals said a temporary political vacuum would have been a price worth paying to get Kan out.
Fumio Oikawa, a 63-year-old manager of Gambare Shiogama, a small seaweed salt factory that was swept away in the tsunami, believes Kan has proved incapable of handling the aftermath of the March 11 disaster.
“Kan should be replaced. The government may have helped the general public a little by doing things like building temporary housing. But the government has done nothing to help our industry and commerce,” Oikawa said. “It’s better to have a short blank period in politics rather than keep having a leader who cannot handle the current situation.”
Tokyoites, meanwhile, questioned the timing of the motion submitted by the Liberal Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, and verbally supported by a group of DPJ members close to party bigwig Ichiro Ozawa, Kan’s archrival.
“While I don’t think Kan’s Cabinet is the best, I also question the move of the opposition parties and Ozawa’s group in trying to pass a no-confidence motion at this point in time,” said a homemaker in her 40s in Minato Ward.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said Kan should have cooperated with Ozawa to unite the party to handle the crisis.
Masahiro Tateno, a 22-year-old college student, said there seems to be a huge gap between voters and politicians.
Politicians are supposed to present voters’ interests, “but I’m not sure whether submitting a no-confidence motion is in the people’s best interests now,” he said.
The LDP, New Komeito and Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) submitted the motion to the Diet on Wednesday, and the Ozawa group had been considering voting for the motion until a few hours before the 3 p.m. Thursday vote. But prior to the vote, Kan vowed to step down once he feels Tohoku is fully on the mend and the Fukushima nuclear crisis has subsided.