Kan hints at playing nuclear energy card

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Whether to promote nuclear power will be the most crucial issue in the next national election, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday, rekindling speculation that he may want to dissolve the Lower House over energy policy.

Kan made the comment during a meeting of Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers, many of whom were sharply critical of his changes to the Cabinet lineup on Monday.

Many DPJ members now suspect that Kan may be trying to remain in power as long as possible, and that he could dissolve the Lower House for a snap election to appeal to voters who have started calling for use of non-nuclear power in the face of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

“Which direction we will take in energy policy will be the biggest issue in the next national election,” Kan told DPJ lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet.

“I hope we can show a certain direction regarding nuclear power administration to remove the sources of trouble for future generations.”

Kan also reiterated the conditions for his resignation that he gave Monday — passage of a special bill to issue deficit-covering bonds, the second supplementary budget bill and a bill promoting renewable energy sources.

“I’m determined to give full scope to tackle these three bills within the time left to me,” he said.

Soon after Kan left the meeting, a DPJ lawmaker asked if he might dissolve the Lower House over the energy issue. DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said it’s unlikely.

“I don’t think (he will call) a snap election. There will be no time (for such an election) while victims (of the March 11 earthquake) are still suffering,” he said.

During the meeting, Kan denied that he revamped the Cabinet on Monday just to remain in power longer.

He mainly discussed his resolve to push energy policy. But many DPJ lawmakers criticized Kan for damaging relations with the Liberal Democratic Party -the most powerful oppostion force — by recruiting LDP Upper House member Kazuyuki Hamada as parliamentary secretary for internal affairs and communications.